Patients across the country are staring at agonising moments ahead as nurses vow to effect their planned strike starting tomorrow.
Kenya National Union of Nurses General Secretary Seth Panyako Saturday said that if a return-to-work formula is not fully implemented, then they will have no choice but to down tools, except for nurses in Mombasa, Migori and Machakos counties who have been paid allowances as per the agreement.
He said the negotiated agreement between the two levels of government entered into on November 2, 2017, for service and uniform allowances, has not been honoured.
"The government has only Sunday to avert this strike. If Salaries and Remuneration Commission continues to play cat and mouse games, then the strike will proceed as planned," said Mr Panyako.
He said counties where nurses will not report to work include West Pokot, Kisumu, Nairobi, Kisii, Taita-Taveta, Nyandarua, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Wajir, Nyeri and Kitui, until the agreement, signed in November 2017, is honoured.
"The strike will affect three other counties - Kiambu, Homa Bay and Marsabit - on February 6, and Kwale, Garissa, Samburu, Kirinyaga and Embu on February 11, then Murang'a, Busia, Nakuru and Siaya from February 18. A total of 24 counties will be affected," said Mr Panyako.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection, Mr Ukur Yatani, urged the nurses union to suspend the planned strike. The CS said he has appointed a conciliation committee that will look into the issues raised and file a report within 30 days.
He said the issue at hand was "non-implementation of a comprehensive return-to-work agreement that was entered into between parties and witnessed by key representatives of nurses, Council of Governors and Ministry of Health officials on November 2, 2017.
"Acknowledging that the health sector provides critical, essential services and noting that their disruption will not only be injurious to the well-being of citizens but also cause a serious security threat, it is imperative that all efforts be made to insulate the sector from interruptions ... " said the minister in a statement.
"In view of conformity with the provision of sections 70 (2) of the Labour Relations Act, I have appointed a Conciliation Committee to be chaired by Mr Harun Mwaura ... it will assist the parties to mediate, amicably resolve the impasse, and file a report to me within 30 days," he said.
Responding to the impending strike, the Council of Governors chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya assured the Ministry, nurses and the public of their commitment to work with the Coalition Committee for expeditious conclusion of the health issue.
"We thank the Ministry for appointing a committee to assist both levels of government resolve this impasse. The step will mitigate any service delivery interruption to Kenyans," said Mr Oparanya.
The union has accused the Ministry of Labour of frustrating implementation of the agreement by placing preconditions that must be met by county governments before it authorises the payments.
"When we issued our strike notices last November, the Minister kept quiet and only appointed a reconciliator last Friday. We find these games played by the ministry as tricks meant to sabotage President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four Agenda. As a union, we shall not accept them," said Mr Panyako.
The union, however, has suspended the strike in three counties. Eighteen others are yet to receive the notice, having shown commitment to meet the return-to-work agreement.
The three are Mandera, Tharaka Nithi and Vihiga counties, while the 18 are Baringo, Laikipia, Meru, Bungoma, Nyamira, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kakamega, Kericho, Kilifi, Lamu, Nandi, Narok, Makueni, Turkana, Uasin Gishu, Bomet and Tana River.
They have been given a month to comply with the agreement.