Tharaka-Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa has dismissed 361 nurses who have been on strike for the last 45 days demanding promotion, nursing service allowance and remittance of various statutory deductions.
Mr Ragwa has accused the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) county branch leaders of being paid by his rivals to paralyse the sensitive health sector in order to ruin his reputation.
In a statement released on Thursday, Mr Ragwa said the county health committee has resolved to fire the nurses after they failed to show course why they continued boycotting duty amid appeals to end their strike.
"The nurses have no genuine reason to continue with the strike and residents cannot continue suffering as the Knun leaders enjoy hand-outs from my rivals in order to stay put," said Mr Ragwa.
He said the 361 nurses failed to appear before the county disciplinary committee, showing that were not ready to resolve the matter.
"The Knun leaders have been calling for strikes without consulting county leadership and sometimes even without explaining it to their members," he said.
County Health Executive Magdalene Njeru told the Nation by phone that they have already declared the positions of the 361 fired nurses vacant and are in the process of replacing them.
She said they have treated the matter as an emergency and will not go through the long process of advertising in the dailies as per the procurement regulations.
"This is a matter of emergency because people are suffering and we have resolved to recruit without advertising as was the case of doctors," said Ms Njeru.
She said all the demands by the nurses had been met except that of nursing service allowance for which the national government was to blame.
"We have borrowed money to pay the allowance for the month of February and because the national government is yet to release the funds we can't pay for the month of January [as] they are demanding," she said.
She added that 139 nurses had resumed duty by last week.
Contacted, Knun county branch chairman Fabian Marigu said they would be consulting with their national office for direction but hinted that they will be moving to court to challenge the dismissals.
He accused Mr Ragwa of misreporting them to public by accusing them of being paid by politicians to call strikes.
"Our union national leaders are scheduled to meet with the county leadership to discuss the raised issues on March 30, and we least expected the governor to make such a decision," said Mr Marigu.
He said 400 qualified nurses had not been promoted but Ms Njeru said only 200 qualified for the next job group and have already been promoted.
Since devolving of the health sector, nurses in Tharaka-Nithi have boycotted duty 18 times on payment related issues.