Health workers have issued a 21-day strike notice to the government following its failure to meet their demands on safety at workplaces.
The staff are allied to the Kenya Health Professionals Society (KHPS) which is made up of seven unions representing 17 cadres of health workers.
Addressing journalists in Nairobi Thursday, Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) Secretary-General George Gibore said the unions had arrived at the decision following the collapse of talks with their employer.
“On May 18, 2020, the Labour CS initiated talks and these were not fruitful after 30 days as laid down in the law. The Constitution allows us to go on a protected strike once the conciliation talks fail to provide a solution after 30 days. We are not going to negotiate any further once the notice expires on September 9, 2020,” he said.
The union is demanding the exclusion of elderly, sickly and pregnant staff from active duty.
“We demand that the employer excuses staff with pre-existing conditions and the elderly aged 55 years and above as well as the expectant from active duty. This is because statistics show that all staff that have so far died of Covid-19 were either elderly, pregnant or suffering from pre-existing conditions,” he said.
He accused the government of compelling health workers to work in affected facilities despite reported cases of their colleagues getting infected.
“We have had cases of staff testing positive and then taken into isolation without their colleagues being informed and tested as contacts. This shows the government is not willing to trace the patient contacts or shut down the facilities in cases of community transmission,” said Mr Gibore.
Mr Gibore said healthcare workers had been intimidated and denied pay in some counties including Vihiga, Kirinyaga, Meru, Lamu, Migori, Busia, Uasin Gishu and Nakuru.
“For the last nine months, Vihiga County has failed to pay 787 healthcare workers. Our members are unable to pay rent, buy food, dress properly and commute to and from work,” said Mr Gibore.
He further complained of the government’s failure to compensate the families of those workers who have died of Covid-19.
“None of the families of deceased staff have been compensated. This painful situation persists despite the fact that the government has received billions in donations from donor countries and development partners,” he said.
On his part, KHPS Chairman Mohammed Duba said health administrators have been excluded from the Covid-19 allowances that President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on July 23, 2020.
Mr Duba said all the health staff deserve to get the allowance that was to be paid from April to June 2020,
“Let the health administrators also get Sh20,000 like the medics and other health workers because they also work in the same environment. Let the provision of allowances be fair to all cadres of service,” said Mr Duba.
He also decried what he termed as the casual treatment and lack of recognition of health staff who have lost their lives to the viral disease.
“Of the 16 health workers that have died, the government has only recognised one and sent formal condolences. With the other deaths, the government has remained silent, only referring to them as others. This is unfair and inhuman, and shows that their services were not appreciated,” said Mr Duba.
Echoing Mr Duba’s sentiments, Mr Gibore asked the State to increase the risk allowances to Sh20,000 for all cadres.
“We demand that irregular contracts and engagements among healthcare workers be harmonised. The employers should provide a health allowance,” Mr Gibore said.
He also decried what he termed as lack of proper work equipment.
“We have tried to alert the ministry that we need to have personal protective equipment of the right quality delivered to every facility but our concerns were ignored,” he said.