9 July 2017

Kenya: Governors Ask Labour CS to Intervene as Nurses' Strike Bites

A few public hospitals are now attending to patients requiring services such as dialysis, X-rays and laboratory tests as the nurses' strike enters its second month.

The bulk of the services offered at the public hospitals, however, remain paralysed across the country.

Governors are now calling on Labour Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie to resolve the dispute which has seen services in a number of health facilities paralysed for weeks.

According to the governors, the negotiation with nurses had reached a dead end after the nurses' union officials withdrew from the process due to failure to strike a deal.

In a letter to the Labour ministry, the governors said due to the current financial situation in the country, the allowances proposed in the nurses' draft collective bargaining agreement were "too high" and not affordable to both the national and county governments.

GET RESPONSE

"The council requests your office to urgently initiate a conciliation process to have the Kenya National Union of Nurses call off the strike and come back to the negotiation table," read the letter signed by Council of Governor's chief executive Jacqueline Mogeni.

The governors said the union officials were adamant on calling the strike despite the existence of a negotiation process undertaken in good faith and mutual agreement.

"The nurses' union called for a strike to force county governments to sign the draft CBA as is and against the Salaries and Remuneration Commission's concurrence," said the letter.

Governors are, however, yet to get a response from the Labour ministry.

Nurses have vowed to stay away from work until their pay deal is signed even as governors threatened to take drastic measures against them.

TURNED AWAY

A spot check in public hospitals in Mombasa, Kisumu, Kisii, and Makueni counties revealed that a majority of the patients were being turned away and forced to seek services at private hospitals.

At the Coast Provincial General Hospital in Mombasa, only eight of the 12 dialysis machines were operating.

A source at the facility said only patients who had been booked in were being attended to, with those seeking fresh admissions turned away.

As a result of the limited dialysis services at the hospital, one patient has had to spend Sh20,000 for treatment at private hospitals since the strike started. Mr Wahid Farjalla, 49, had a kidney transplant a few years ago.

"The strike should just be called off. There are other avenues to seek audience without denying patients their rights," he said.

Coast General serves patients from Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Lamu and Tana River counties.

DYING AT HOME

In Kisumu, cancer patients and those battling kidney failure are also hoping against hope that the nurses' strike is called off before long.

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral hospital, the only referral facility in western region, has stopped offering radiotherapy and dialysis owing to the strike.

The only patients being attended to are those requiring ultrasound scans or suffering from HIV and Aids.

Kisumu County Health chief officer, Dr Ojwang Lusi, questioned the wisdom behind nurses abandoning some services. "What happens when you have a patient with kidney failure and the disease is diagnosed for the first time after seven years but unfortunately, you cannot access dialysis?" he asked.

"This is the sad reality we are in now, many patients are dying at homes because they do not have the money to seek services at private hospitals," he added.

In Kisii, the county director of Health Geoffrey Otomu said patients who required outpatient services were being attended to by the available clinicians.

Dr Otomu said the only services being offered at the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital were laboratory analysis, X-ray, radiology and pharmacy.

MOST HIT

In Makueni County, the strike has paralysed inpatient services in Makueni, Makindu, Mbooni, Kibwezi and Sultan Hamud hospitals while the outpatient services at these and other facilities have been suboptimal.

A senior hospital official at Makindu Hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, said the facility had discharged "some of the admitted patients because we do not have nurses to attend to them".

According to Dr Andrew Mulwa, the county's Health executive, Makindu Hospital was the most hit by the strike.

Despite the strike, the hospital was still offering maternity, radiology, laboratory and cancer screening services.

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