The Central Organisation of Trade Unions has offered to mediate in the deadlock between nurses on strike and their employer, which enters the seventh day today.
Acting Cotu Secretary-General Benson Okwaro said the talks will be held in Nairobi tomorrow, attended by officers from the Ministry of Labour and the nurses’ union officials.
Mr Okwaro called on the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to stick to its advisory role and “stop meddling” with the workers’ welfare.
The strike has paralysed health care in public hospitals across the country.
Because of the nature of their job, and their constant, close contact with patients, nurses are the backbone of any functioning health care system.
At Nakuru Level 5 Hospital yesterday, the casualties area and the waiting bay, usually busy throughout the week, were deserted. Only a few members of the support staff could be seen.
PATIENTS TURNED AWAY
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source at the key referral hospital told the Nation that no new admissions were being allowed as there were no nurses to attend to patients in the wards.
Some patients seeking services from doctors were allowed in while the critically ill were turned away by security guards manning the gate.
The hospital acts as a referral facility for more than five counties — Laikipia, Baringo, Kericho, Nyandarua and Samburu.
At Bondeni Maternity, an extension of the hospital, services were paralysed.
All maternity wings were locked, with a security guard at the gate turning away patients seeking services.
In Laikipia and Nyahururu, patients were turned away at key government hospitals.
The most affected included Nyahururu County Referral Hospital, which serves patients from as far away as Baringo, Samburu, Nyandarua and Laikipia.
In the western region, nurses in Kisii, Siaya, Kisumu, Homa Bay and Bomet counties planned to demonstrate on the streets today to compel governors and the Ministry of Health to implement their collective bargaining agreement, terming the Sarah Serem-led SRC as illogical.
The CBA was signed in December with government officials.
Mr Benard Cheruiyot, the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) deputy secretary for Bomet branch, said they will not listen to empty rhetoric.
“We signed a CBA with Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto with all the representatives of the health workers to increase our pay by 12.5 per cent, but now, that has been shelved, leaving us wondering about who was fooling whom,” Mr Cheruiyot said.
In Kisii, nurses said they will be back in the streets today for “the mother of all protests”.
The union’s branch secretary, Mr Richard Riang’a, said they are ready “to stay away from our work stations as long as the government is not ready to cede ground and sign the CBA”.
He said: “We will forge on with the demos until we get it signed.”
At Kisii Level 5 Hospital, several patients were stranded with no nurse in sight, even though a handful of doctors and clinicians were on duty.
In Siaya, the more than 400 county-employed nurses vowed to stay away despite a return-to-work order.
The union’s branch secretary, Mr Sylvester Ng’anda, said the strike would continue as planned until the national and county governments address their grievances.
He dismissed letters from the county chief officer of health ordering the nurses back to work.
“I am the only one who can call off the strike. I want to call on all our members to stay put and disregard the directive,” Mr Ng’anda said.
On Friday, the county government, through the chief officer of Health, Ms Dorothy Owino, warned in a memo that nurses who failed to resume work would be absconding duty.
Ms Owino termed the strike illegitimate as it contravened the Employment Act and the code of regulation, both of which help in solving labour disputes.
At Baringo County Referral Hospital, patients lay in the wards unattended and only those who cleared their medical bills were discharged.
The maternity wing had two patients under the care of student nurses.
Last week, the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) warned of legal action against the government should it fail to end the impasse.
“Maternal and child health care is the most affected. No woman should die while giving life,” Fida Kenya chairperson Josephine Mong’are said.
- Patients at Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital on June 8, 2017 wait to be attended to as nurses continue with their strike.