Kenya: Assembly Summons Taita County Officials Over Health Crisis

22 February 2021

Ward Reps in Taita-Taveta have summoned the health executive and the head of the public service board over the dismissal of more than 400 medical workers.

Deputy chairperson of the health committee, Constance Mwandawiro, said the county assembly wants to establish why the workers were sacked and some evicted from government quarters.

Health executive John Mwakima and board chair Alfred Mlolwa are under pressure to explain the measures they have taken to end the standoff with healthcare workers, which has left thousands of patients suffering in their homes.

"The two officials will appear before the House tomorrow. The strike must end because our people are in danger," she said.

The county hospitals in Voi, Mwatate, Wundanyi and Taveta are only offering outpatient services. Patients are often referred to private hospitals for admission.

The situation is dire in most parts of the county due to the ongoing healthcare workers' strike. Meanwhile, private hospitals are expensive, leaving thousands suffering in their homes. Some patients have been detained in private facilities due to high medical bills.

Last week, a woman died in a private vehicle after waiting for three days for an ambulance to take to a private hospital.

Ms Sidi Said died in a car while being rushed to St Joseph Shelter of Hope, after getting a referral from Al-Shifaa Community hospital in Taveta where she had received treatment for three days.

In Voi, Jackline Mwake has been forced to wait at home as her stomach tumour continues to take a toll on her health.

Ms Mwake was scheduled to undergo surgery at the Moi County Referral Hospital in December, 2020 but the strike complicated everything. The surgery was estimated to cost Sh45,000 but a private clinic is demanding Sh100,000 for the same.

Deteriorating by the day

"I cannot afford their charges. I'm forced to wait for my fate at home. My condition is deteriorating by the day. I don't know what tomorrow holds for me. I pray that services resume for me to get treatment," she said.

Former governor John Mruttu urged the county government to resolve the stalemate to end the suffering as a majority of residents cannot afford treatment in private hospitals.

"As the standoff between the medics and the county drags on, ordinary residents are suffering," said Mr Mruttu.

Former Woman Representative Joyce Lay also condemned the sacking of medics and called on the county government and workers' unions to resolve the standoff.

"The county government should be sensitive. Stop the evictions and embrace dialogue with the nurses and their unions," said Mr Lay.

Talks between the devolved unit and the union officials failed due to hardline positions taken by both parties. The medics are planning to hold a demonstration on Wednesday to protest their sacking.

In a recent interview, Mr Mwakima said they had promoted 80 health workers and were in the process of effecting 144 more. He castigated the medics for taking a hardline stance and disregarding court orders that required them to report back to work.

"Although the health workers have the right to participate in a legal strike, they cripple services with almost no inpatient services being provided. That is a violation of people's right to healthcare," he said.

Services in public facilities are expected to resume this week after the county government hired new medics to replace the sacked workers. The public service board has also reinstated over 30 workers who appealed to be considered back to work.

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