Capital FM (Nairobi)

25 November 2012

Kenya: Nurses Threaten to Strike in December

Photo: Justus Ochieng'/The Star
Nurses demonstrate along the Oginga Odinga Street in Kisumu town in March 2012.

Three nurses unions have issued a fresh seven day strike notice which could see over 60,000 nurses not report to work on December 3 if the government doesn't meet their demands.

The Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), the National Nurses Association of Kenya and the Kenya Progressive Nurses Association have been holding consultations over the past few weeks regarding the issues they presented to the government, but KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako said that the government has not addressed a single issue in over three months.

"All nurses in the country shall go on strike unless the government implements the immediate registration of the Kenya Union of Nurses, the employment of all nurses on contracts, the replacement of retiring or resigning nurses, the continuous employment of all qualifying nurses and the commitment to improve medical equipment and supplies in public health facilities," he explained.

"There is need for the establishment of the Health Service Commission in the constitution, setup of the Kenya National Ambulance Services, training of health personnel, availability and functionality of diagnostic equipment, management in public health institutions and the strengthening of human resource management in the ministries," he added,

He said that they are also demanding the re-designation and promotions of all deserving nurses, the appointment of a director of nursing services and other vacant positions and the implementation of all approved allowances.

"We are only asking for what has been approved, we are not asking for anything new," he emphasised.

"We want the government to implement uniform allowance of Sh5,000 per month, non-practice allowance of Sh30,000 per month, commuter allowance of Sh15,000 per month, high risk allowance for Sh20,000 per month, theatre allowance of Sh30,000 per month and call allowance of Sh30,000 per month," he explained.

The Unions have also called on the government to finalise the Collective Bargaining Agreement as per the salaries and remuneration commission's guidelines.

Panyako expressed his disappointment in the government's employment of nurses saying, "It is very sad to note that the government can still employ nurses on a contract that is not comprehensive and a little amorphous in its construct."

He pointed out that the contract between the government and the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) nurses is in utter disregard of the government's own civil service code of regulations section E20 which says, "Appointment on temporary terms will be confined to those cases where the service of an officer would not normally be required beyond a period of twelve months or where a candidate does not qualify for appointment to the particular vacancy other than on temporary terms under the service regulations or where the establishment is of a temporary nature."

"The health sector is very important and it's very odd and unacceptable for nurses or any health care providers to be employed as 'casuals' in the name of a contract," Panyako emphasised.

"We demand that all nurses working on contracts must be employed on permanent and pensionable terms immediately and with effect from July 1, 2012," he added.

He made it clear that the unions will not accept any nurse to be employed on contract by the Public Service Commission and they are asking for the immediate recruitment of three senior deputy chief nursing officers, ten deputy chief nursing officers, 20 assistant chief nursing officers and 81 assistant chief nursing officers.

"There is an acute shortage of nurses in the Ministry of Medical Services and Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, which currently stands at about 49,245 nurses," he said.

"A further 13,000 nurses may retire in the next two years beginning in 2013 who need to be replaced immediately. The shortage of nurses in the public sector has been contributed to by factors such as natural attrition and the high market for experienced Kenyan nurses abroad," he added.

He explained that as a result, the workload for nurses has increased tremendously in recent years and the need for more nurses has also been brought about by an increase in new health facilities built through the Constituency Development Fund and a rise in districts, causing the establishment of new district hospitals.

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