40+ days in wilderness for health workers
We are well into 2021 amid a pandemic, yet continue with our lives like before. Covid-19 is still ravaging the world, including our beloved country, Kenya.
However, our saviours, the people entrusted with pulling us out of the jaws of the pandemic, are nowhere to be seen. Not because they are lazy or neglected their duties. No. They simply don’t have the appropriate means to protect themselves as they go about saving us.
It has been more than 40 days since health workers downed their tools. They insist that their issues be addressed before they resume work. The leaders of the nurses’ and clinical officers’ unions have said they are not to blame for the paralysis of operations in hospitals, and point the finger at county governors.
“We’re not happy with the way the governors are handling this issue,” Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) Deputy Secretary-General Opetu Maurice said recently. “They’ve frustrated the efforts that had been made by Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, Labour’s Simon Chelugui and the multi-agency team that was formed by the [national] government to address our issues.”
The health workers have raised a myriad concerns. Some will require long-term planning and the government might not be able to implement all of them. The main concern is how the government has allowed the issue to escalate to this extent.
The country has spent more than Sh200 billion on the Covid-19 war in the past nine months, with more than half of Kenyans having to pay for their healthcare. I will not be surprised if most of the funds were lost through corruption.
When will our politicians put aside their ‘wheelbarrow’ and ‘BBI’ politics and resolve at least 70 per cent of the issues bedevilling the health sector?
We’re about to relaunch the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) programme. Every household will pay Sh6,000 a year to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to access the rejigged UHC services.
That sounds like a very good plan from a very focused government — at least on paper. But who will implement the programme if healthcare workers are always a month away from going on strike? Why don’t we sort out the issues in the health sector before saddling it with more programmes that will cost the taxpayer just to benefit a few corrupt individuals?
Health workers are also human and deserve to be protected. I can’t envision a scenario where we are all ill, but campaigning for the 2022 General Election!
“Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have,” so said Winston Churchill.
Should the row between health workers and their employer deepen, we, Kenyans, should take a step back and confront our leaders when they come with their wheelbarrows and BBI.
Kingsley Ochieng, via email