Patients suffer as health workers in Embu go on strike

A patient Martin Mukundi who has been abandoned at Embu referral hospital after health workers went on strike protesting against poor working conditions.

Photo credit: George Munene | Nation Media Group

Health workers in Embu have gone on strike, protesting against poor working conditions.

The workers downed their tools and kept away from Embu Referral Hospital, leaving patients suffering.

A spot check by the Nation established that patients’ relatives had started withdrawing them from the hospital as there were no medics to attend to them.

Patients complained that there was no one in wards to treat them or prescribe drugs.

"Health workers are nowhere to be seen and I have been lying in my bed suffering. My bed sheets have not been washed and they are stinking," said Mr Martin Mukundi, who is nursing leg injuries following an accident.

Empty beds after relatives withdrew their patients from Embu referral hospital following a strike by health workers.

Photo credit: George Munene | Nation Media Group

Patients expressed fears about contracting contagious diseases from dirty linen.

Quality services

Mr Mukundi's mother Esther Njoki, said she was planning to take her son home as she had no money to transfer him to a private hospital.

"I have come to visit my son but I'm shocked to see there are no nurses to look after him. In this hospital, feeding patients is also a problem," said Ms Njoki, who hails from Gachoka in Mbeere. 

The outpatient department was deserted as there were no clinical officers to prescribe drugs to patients seeking treatment.

Residents seeking services had to go back home frustrated after they found that clinical officers and nurses had not reported for work.

"The situation is serious and something urgent should be done to save our lives," Mercy Mukundi said.

Workers complained about a lack of basic commodities such as food for patients and tea for staff.

They also cited inadequate pharmaceuticals and non-pharmaceuticals at Embu Referral and other facilities.

"We can't offer quality services to patients due to lack of essential medical supplies," one of the workers said.

Enough is enough

Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) officials said workers were also unhappy because deductions from their salaries amounting to Sh700 million had not been remitted to banks, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and other statutory bodies.

"The devolved government has been taking us for a ride for so long and we have said enough is enough," said Macharia Kanderi, the Knun Embu branch secretary.

They said they could not work under poor conditions.

Mr Kanderi said the devolved government had failed to meet the demands of workers. He vowed that the strike would continue until officials bow to pressure from protesting workers.

"We have held meetings with county senior officials but they have not [resolved] our grievances," Mr Kanderi said.

The workers said they had been suffering in silence for a long time.

"We have to teach this government a lesson for being adamant," another worker said.

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