13 December 2018

Kenya: Patients Continue Suffering as Nurses' Strike Bites

Health services were paralysed in 134 hospitals for the third day on Wednesday in Bomet County as a strike by nurses continues.

A crisis meeting convened on Monday afternoon by Governor Joyce Laboso to address the twin issues: strike and the unprecedented case of four stillbirths recorded at Longisa County Referral Hospital at the weekend, failed to end the stalemate.

The crisis deepened as the medical services department confirmed through a report that the number of stillbirths recorded since Sunday had risen to five.

Nine expectant mothers in various stages of labour were allegedly abandoned by doctors and nurses overnight at the mother and child clinic on Friday.

RESIGNATIONS

The 259 striking nurses, who started a go-slow on Friday, cited failure by the county government to implement a collective bargaining agreement signed on November 2, 2017, addressing a myriad of issues including promotions, re-designations and confirmation of those serving on contract.

Two specialist nurses have resigned in the last two weeks under unclear circumstances and were later hired by another hospital in Uasin Gishu County.

The worst affected by the strike is the referral hospital that has 102 nurses, while the others are spread across Tegat, Sigor, Cheptalal, Ndanai and Koiwa sub-county hospitals as well as health centres and dispensaries.

"We have taken the radical move following failure by the county government to factor in money in the 2018/2019 budgetary allocations for promotions, which are long overdue, and confirmation of nurses serving on contract terms," Mr Vincent Rono, the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) branch secretary, said.

ULTIMATUM

Mr Rono added: "Last Friday we held a meeting with the Deputy Governor, Dr Hillary Barchok, and the county executive for Medical Services, Dr Joseph Sitonik, and all we got are a repeat of the empty promises. We have had enough of the promises; what we need now is action, failing which we will not resume duties."

"A total of 49 nurses are overdue for promotions while two others have been demoted in circumstances that are highly questionable. Two much-sought after specialists have resigned and joined Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, leaving Longisa hospital badly exposed," Mr Rono said.

One of the specialists was posted at the neonatal unit while the other was at the intensive care unit.

Another 147 nurses have not been confirmed as permanent and pensionable county employees despite having served for more than two years in the various health facilities, in what the union officials blame for the low morale among the staff.

SENT AWAY

The nurses claimed that the house allowances paid to those in the same job group were not uniform and that they were intimidated whenever they raised the issue with the human resource department.

Patients at the health facilities were turned away, leaving doctors and other cadre of staff struggling to attend to the high numbers.

"We are asking patients to seek services at private clinics and neighbouring counties until the dispute with our employer is sorted out," Mr Rono said, noting that health facilities in the county are treating many people from other regions.

Others who attended the meeting were County Secretary Evalyne Rono, Longisa hospital medical superintendent Isaac Birech, Medical Services chief officer Zeddy Chepkorir and her Public Health counterpart Philemon Ruto.

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