The Homa Bay health sector was thrown into disarray Monday after medical workers went on strike over unpaid salaries and unfavorable working conditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The workers made good their threat to strike after their notice to Governor Cyprian Awiti's administration expired on July 30.
They want salaries for June and July and better working environments as they face the deadly virus.
They also want the county to cushion them from suffering through timely payment of statutory deductions to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and provision of enough personal protective equipment (PPEs).
Following a declaration by their union leaders, the medical workers from all public hospitals and Covid-19 isolation centres announced that they were withdrawing their services.
The health workers including doctors, nurses, clinical officers, laboratory technicians, pharmacists and dentists vowed that they will not go back to work until Homa Bay addresses their grievances.
Union officials told their members not to report to work and advise patients to seek services from private health facilities. Nurses and doctors stationed at isolation centres were instructed to go home.
Kevin Osuri, Nyanza chair of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), said the strike in Homa Bay is legal.
Dr Osuri claimed the county has never fulfilled its promise of timely salary payments for the past nine months.
"We are asking the national government to transfer health functions from the county and manage its critical affairs. We have abandoned our duties because we have been abandoned by our employer,"he said.
He also called on the Ethics and Anti-Corruption (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to investigate the salary delays as the allocation was approved in the last financial year's budget.
"The government may claim the stalemate at the Senate is the reason why salaries are delayed but all other counties in the region have paid salaries," Dr Osuri said.
Doctors in the county said they will not negotiate with the government on financial matters.
"We are not talking with the county government anymore. We will only check our bank accounts to see if our salaries have been deposited," said the county's KMPDU Liaison Officer Amos Dulo.
Kenya Union of Clinical Officer (KUCO) Branch Executive Secretary Philip Mbom and Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) County Deputy Secretary Omondi Nyonje said the county has not offered an explanation for the salary delays.
Mr Nyonje said most health workers cannot be served in hospitals because their statutory deductions are not remitted in time.
"We are calling for total paralysis until we get our salaries. We are suffering," he said.
County Health executive Richard Muga said the delays were due to the late disbursement of funds from the national government to the county.