Kenya: Nyanza Health Crisis - More Medics to Down Tools Today

This week promises to present tough moments for three counties in Nyanza region as more health workers plan to down their tools to protest at late payment of salaries.

The health workers have also raised concern over their safety with regard to Covid-19, promotions and other Collective Bargaining Agreements issues.

Health workers from Siaya and Nyamira counties are today expected to join their Homa Bay counterparts, who went on strike last Monday, in what threatens to frustrate the fight against Covid-19.

This come barely a week after health workers from Kisii resumed work last Wednesday after downing tools for a week.

Honour pledge

Governor James Ongwae promised to address their grievances by tomorrow. However, the health workers have warned that they will resume the strike if the county boss fails to honour the pledge.

In Homa Bay, the strike has paralysed operations in public health facilities, which witnessed a mass exodus of health workers to private facilities last week.

The health workers have put county governments on the spot over a shortage of personal protective equipment, saying they are exposed to Covid-19 at work.

During the burial of their colleague, Ms Marianne Awuor, the nurse from Homa Bay who died of Covid-19 last week, the spotlight shone on the preparedness of county hospitals to deal with Covid-19.

Ms Awuor was buried on Friday morning in Nyandonge village, Kasipul. Health workers who attended the burial called for a streamlined health care system as it emerged that negligence at Rachuonyo South Sub-county Hospital, where Ms Awuor worked as a theatre nurse, could have resulted in her death.

Covid-19 symptoms

It emerged that there were delays at the hospital, where the nurse was first admitted when she displayed Covid-19 symptoms. Her family claimed that it took five hours for a Kenya Red Cross ambulance to travel from Homa Bay Town to Oyugis to pick the nurse, who was pregnant, when her condition got worse.

She was supposed to be transferred to Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital, which is said to have been the only facility that had space in ICU in the region.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentist Union Homa Bay Liaison Officer Amos Dulo said the county government should compensate Ms Awuor's family. But Rachuonyo South Hospital distanced itself from the negligence accusations. Medical Superintendent Stephen Okello said the hospital did all it could to save Ms Awuor.

Health workers in Homa Bay went on strike last Monday to demand June and July salaries as well as protest at insufficient provision of PPEs.

In Nyamira, medics issued a seven-day strike notice on Wednesday, citing delayed salaries and backdated promotions of doctors. Kisii is also facing a serious shortage of doctors, affecting smooth delivery of services.

By George Odiwuor, Dickens Wasonga and Benson Ayienda

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