As Kenya heads to the peak of Covid-19 infections, health workers across the country have downed their tools complaining about poor pay, lack of personal protective equipment and anxiety due to the death of their colleagues.
In Homa Bay County, health workers have defied the Industrial Court in Kisumu which ordered them to go back to work three weeks when they began their strike.
In Nairobi, doctors are on the third day of their strike, after botched negotiations with the Nairobi Metropolitan Services due to pay complaints. Graduate nurses in the city, who are paid Sh300 an hour without gratuity or job security, have been tossed from NMS to the county government as no one wants to take responsibility for the plight of the nurses.
The strikes and complaints come as the World Health Organisation ) and the Ministry of Health raise the alarm over healthcare workers’ infection numbers, which have risen to more than 800 and 16 have died.
Kenya National Union of Laboratory Technicians say even when they pay for their own insurance, the government does not remit the money.
Counties such as Nyamira, Kisii and Siaya moved swiftly to avert a crisis in the health sector in the last one month after striking a return-to-work deal with medics, who were threatening to down their tools. In Nairobi, the county that accounts for more than 60 per cent of all Covid-19 cases, nurses in Pumwani shared documents with Nation which showed temporary contracts that they were given signed by an official of the hospital in April, for them to work for three months.
Inadequate health insurance
By last week, the nurses had not been paid, while new ones were being interviewed to be employed. NMS health executive, Dr Ouma Oluga, had not responded to our calls by the time of going to press.
Dr Thuranira Kaugiria, doctors’ union Nairobi secretary-general, said 320 doctors employed by the county government were taking part in the strike because they had inadequate health insurance, poor quality protective gear and too few isolation wards to treat Covid-19 patients. The same case was reported in Kisumu County.
Doctors’ union Nyanza chairman Kevin Osuri said health functions should be reverted to national government. Dr Osuri said Homa Bay County health executive Prof Richard Muga had told the medics that the county government would sue them for “failing to show up at work”.
By Nasibo Kabale, Elizabeth Ojina, Verah Okeyo, George Odiwuor and Angeline Owuor.