Kenya: Healthcare Workers Want Govt to Address Their Plight as Covid-19 Bites

23 November 2020

Nairobi — Unions representing healthcare workers have issued demands that the National and County governments must meet for their members to continue delivering uninterrupted services during the coronavirus pandemic.

While making submissions before the Senate Health Committee, Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary General Seth Panyako said nurses are more exposed and called on the government to provide adequate and standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for all healthcare workers as well as a comprehensive medical cover.

Panyako pointed out that of the 32 healthcare workers who have succumbed to COVID-19 in the country, 16 of them are nurses.

"We have so many devastating stories of how healthcare workers are dying. There is a nurse who succumbed after being turned away from a private hospital because she was unable to raise Sh100, 000 to be admitted at the ICU. So we want the government to be serious and cushion our workers in all possible ways and protect them from being exposed," said Panyako.

Kenya Union of Clinical officers which was represented by their President Michael Nyongesa said 7 of its members have died and called on the government to harmonize risk allowances for all healthcare workers saying they are all on the frontline in the fight against the virus.

"We are dealing with a very serious situation and a killer disease. We are urging the government to harmonize risk allowances. This will motivate clinical officers and all other healthcare workers to be available at all times to offer their much-needed services in this country," Nyongesa said.

Other unions that appeared before the committee include the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Nurses Professionals Association, Pharmaceutical Union, Kenya Medical Association and Medical Laboratory Officers among others whose top officials demanded for the employment of more healthcare workers, promotion of their members, risk allowances and medical covers.

Two weeks ago, KMPDU accused the government of neglect saying its members who are on the frontline in the battle against coronavirus were being exposed due to unavailability of sufficient protective equipment and issued a strike notice set to commence on December 6.

"Over the last 8 months, KMPDU has continuously engaged all relevant government ministries, parastatals and the Council of Governors, the legislature and followed all relevant channels in employment and labor relations in a bid to address the plight of frontline healthcare workers. The union had put the industrial action off the table but now we have been forced to review our options," said Chibanzi Mwachonda, the union's Secretary-General.

He faulted the government for failing to address the plight of doctors, leading to the deaths of at least 30 medical workers. They include 12 senior specialists' doctors.

By November 22, the country had recorded 1,380 COVID-19 deaths, 77, 372 infections.

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