8 March 2017

Kenya: Strike By Tharaka-Nithi Nurses Enters a Month As Stalemate Persists

A strike by nurses in Tharaka-Nithi has entered its 30th day as the county government refuses to negotiate on promotions.

The striking nurses are demanding promotions, payment of allowances and remittance of statutory deductions.

With doctors also on strike, doors remain closed in all public hospitals in the county, leaving patients to suffer, the most affected being expectant mothers and young children.

The nurses have maintained that they will not resume work until all their demands are met while the county government insists that it is tired of holding fruitless meetings with the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) branch officials.

NURSES' PROMOTIONS

Speaking to the Nation on Wednesday, Knun County Branch Chairman Fabian Marigu said the county government had declined to promote over 400 eligible nurses, failed to pay nursing service allowance and failed to remit various statutory deductions for the last three months.

"The county health officials have declined addressing our issues and we have vowed to remain at home," said Mr Marigu.

He said county had also withheld their salaries for the month of February.

Contacted, Ms Magdalene Njeru, the county Health executive said that all demands by nurses had been addressed and accused their union officials of being paid by some local politicians to paralyse services in hospitals.

Ms Njeru said only a total of 220 nurses were eligible for the next job group and they had already promoted 199.

199 NURSES PROMOTED

"We have already promoted 199 nurses who are eligible, and files for 21 remaining [ones] are yet to be sent to us from the national government," said Ms Njeru.

On nursing service allowance, Ms Njeru said the money was to come from the national government and is yet to be released.

However, Knun county branch Secretary, Mr Kenneth Micheni, said their colleagues in other counties were paid for the month of January and February.

Mr Micheni said nurses are facing a lot of challenges because they cannot access the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) services because deductions have not been remitted.

He added that those with bank loans are paying penalties while others have been blacklisted.

A spot check by the Nation on Wednesday established that not a single patient was in the wards at Chuka County Referral Hospital, Tharaka Sub-County Hospital and Magutuni Sub-County Hospital.

PATIENTS SUFFERING

Speaking to the Nation, Ms Mary Mukami, a relative of Mr John Kimathi from Magutuni Village in Maara Sub-County said he is forced to skip some dialysis sessions because of the high cost in private hospitals.

"Our brother has been attending dialysis clinics at Chuka County Referral Hospital but since the nurses went on strike, we have taken him once to Kenyatta National Hospital," said Ms Mukami.

Mr Nicholas Gituma, a resident of Marimanti Town said his wife had to give birth at home under the care of traditional midwives because of the strike.

"My wife could not deliver in a private hospital because I had no money," said Mr Gituma, who is physically disabled.

The stalemate is expected to continue because the governor and the other top county officials are attending the fourth annual devolution conference in Naivasha.

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