Kenya: Coast Health Workers Vow to Keep Off Work Until They're Paid

19 August 2019

Hundreds of patients seeking health services, some critically ill, have been left stranded at the largest hospital in the Coast region as doctors and nurses continue to boycott duties.

The boycott has taken a toll on patients who have urged the Mombasa County administration to resolve the stalemate that has led to the total shutdown of most of the public hospitals.

The Coast Provincial General Hospital (CPGH), Port Reitz, Tudor, Jomvu, Likoni and Kisauni sub-county hospitals are mostly affected as doctors and nurses have boycotted duties since Friday.

PARALYSED

The boycott has paralysed health services in Mombasa.

The Port Reitz Hospital's mental health and substance abuse department is the second-largest mental health institution in Kenya after Mathari Mental Hospital in Nairobi.

Random checks by the Nation in some of the hospitals revealed patients reporting from as early as 6am only to find no doctors or nurses to attend to them.

CPGH, which attends to more than 700 patients in a day was Monday deserted with only watchmen keeping an eye.

The Nation found critically ill patients lying in their beds at the intensive care unit, a few expectant mothers in the maternity ward and some in the general wards.

"My son was admitted on Thursday last week after he was involved in an accident and until now he has not received any medical attention. I am waiting for doctors or nurses to come and help my child. Governor Hassan Joho, we are pleading with you to ease our sufferings," said Mr Sharti Tangayo.

He said the hospital caters for the poor.

ONE NURSE

"But those who are rich like the governors who have refused to pay the health workers seek medical attention abroad. But remember it is all vanity. One day God will rescue the aggrieved," he said amid tears.

He said only one nurse was doing rounds in the hospital.

"She is equally overwhelmed. My son is in critical state," he added.

However, some patients opted to seek medical services elsewhere.

A parent, Ms Latifa Hamim, said her two children need urgent medical attention.

"No health worker has attended to my children one of whom has an ear problem and the other one is suffering from pneumonia. I rushed them to the emergency ward only to be met by a strike. I was expecting all will be well since it is the main referral hospital but my children have not been admitted and they are very sick," she said.

TOUGHER TIMES

But the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) has told residents to brace for tougher times.

"We have not been paid our dues. How will I report to work without fare or money to buy lunch?" asked Dr Niko Gichana a Mombasa KMPDU official.

Speaking to the Nation by phone, Dr Gichana blamed the county administration for refusing to pay health workers their duties.

Dr Gichana said a meeting to resolve the stalemate did not bear any fruit after the over 4,000 county workers realised that the county was making false promises.

"They are telling us to go to work but they are not giving us a timeline on when we will be paid. They are being disingenuous on whether they want to pay people. If you feel like we are not so important let us stay at home," insisted Dr Gichana.

PAY WORKERS

The union asked the county to pay the workers using the 50 percent revenue collected under the Public Finance Management Act.

Dr Gichana accused the county of politicising the matter.

"Why is it only Mombasa County that has not paid? Why has Kwale paid?," wondered the union's official.

The health workers will Tuesday take stock of the boycott and its effects.

The Kenya County Government Workers Union (KCGWU) Mombasa Branch Secretary Hajj Mwinyi and Kenya National Union of Nurses Mombasa Branch Secretary Stanley Mwailogho said the work boycott will continue until the workers get their July salaries.

LIFE UNBEARABLE

"Life is unbearable, we have bills to pay. We met at the governor's office but the one-and-a-half hour meeting ended without anything," he insisted.

Mr Mwinyi said the county government, led by the Devolution executive who is acting as the Health CEC, Dr Seth Odongo, said they will send a circular Monday explaining why the salaries have been delayed.

"They further promised to pay our salaries on Wednesday or Thursday next week but we told them we can't force people to go to work," insisted Mr Mwinyi.

But he said anyone willing to go to work is free to do so and those who are staying put should not be victimized.

"We are working on alternatives to pay the workers as the national conversation and discussion [goes] on. We have even explained to the union officials [that] we understand their plight but they should be patient," County Communications Director Richard Chacha said.

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