Taita-Taveta County has sacked over 500 health workers for participating in an "illegal strike".
The medical workers were sacked after they declined to return to work as directed by County Secretary Leverson Mghendi and Health Department Chief Officer Philomena Kirote.
The county secretary had asked the clinical officers and nurses to return to work saying the matter was being addressed at the national level. His letter was later followed by a "show cause" notice that demanded that the health workers state why they had absconded duty despite being asked to return to work.
The letter, which was signed by acting County Public Service Board Chief Executive Officer Rachel Mwadime, ordered the sacked medics to immediately surrender all property belonging to the county government to their supervisors.
In an interview, County Health Executive John Mwakima said the process to replace the officers is ongoing.
"The public service board has already initiated the replacement process. We want normal operations in our health facilities to resume immediately," he said.
He said the county government will recruit 400 new healthcare workers to replace the sacked ones.
Mr Mwakima said the process will be completed by next week.
"Our people are suffering. I have received many distress messages from residents who are unable to get treatment. That is why we are working to ensure that services resume by next week," he said.
Meanwhile, the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) Taita-Taveta branch vowed to move to court to challenge the sackings.
The union's branch Secretary-General Reuben Matolo termed the sacking illegal.
"We are going to move to court because we are holding a legal strike. We will not be cowed by such intimidation," he said.
He said the county government withdrew the nurses from the payroll and they will seek legal redress if the matter is not resolved.
"We are yet to receive our December salaries but we will go to court to counter this decision," he said.
The strike, which kicked off in December last year, has paralysed health services in the entire county.
Among the departments affected are the renal unit, maternity, paediatric care, theatre, in-patient and the cancer centre.
The fight against Covid-19 has also been interrupted as all cases are now under home-based care and this may threaten the lives of those who need close attention by health workers.
Private clinics in the county are also reaping big as patients, especially pregnant mothers, flock the hospitals for lack of services at public health facilities.