The Star (Nairobi)

26 November 2012

Kenya: Nurses Threaten Strike

NURSES have given the government a seven-day notice to address their plight or face a countrywide strike. They have called for the immediate implementation of all approved allowances totalling Sh130,000 per month.

Speaking at a press briefing yesterday , the nurses condemned what they termed as government's laxity in addressing their plight, and vowed to down tools if their demands are not met.

"The nurses wish to inform the members of the public, the patients and clients they serve that we have resolved to take this painful decision to exercise our constitutional rights," said the Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary general, Seth Panyako.

They want Sh5,000 for uniform, 30,000 for non-practice, 15,000 for commuter, 20,000 as risk allowance, 30,000 for theatre and 30,000 call allowances.

If they make good their threat, there will be no nursing services in all public hospitals from December 3. They threatened to persuade their counterparts in the private sector and nursing students to join them and help improve health services delivery.

Panyako attributed their decision which he said was inevitable, to government's unwillingness to implement an earlier agreement in September that had thwarted a similar call.

"We have been holding consultation on the progress of nurses' issues that were presented to the government to address, but no single thing has been put on the table," he said.

Top on the list of demands is the registration of KNUN, which the nurses say will advocate for their rights and improve their working conditions. "We have been advocating for the union since 1997, but the government has put up a spirited fight to block its formation."

"We also want all nurses working on contracts to be given permanent employment," Panyako said, adding that the move will help cushion the sector's numerous challenges that are attributed to personnel shortage.

He reiterated that the workers were not pressing for fresh demands, and that the allowances in question were agreed on by the two parties, a measure that consequently ended the intended strike.

An estimated 15,000 nurses serve in various public health facilities countrywide and another 45,000 in the private sector; a number Panyako says is way below the required target to attend to the country's population and health needs.

Other demands raised include the immediate stoppage of deductions and remittance to the National Civil Servants Union, which they say does not represent their plights.

The nurses were represented by three unions at the meeting yesterday. They vowed to fight for the recognition of KNUN, saying it was a constitutional right for workers to be represented by a trade union.

They also want the government to appoint a director of nursing services, who will report directly to the PS. They argue that their members continue to be oppressed for lack of a representative.

Panyako further called for hiring of 50,000 more personnel, which he said was the total deficit being faced in the sector, restocking of drugs in all health facilities and general infrastructural development to enhance efficiency.

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