Misery as Butere hospital workers down tools

A deserted ward at the Butere sub-county hospital on September 21, 2022 after patients were discharged following the ongoing strike by health and technical workers. 

Photo credit: Shaban Makokha | Nation Media Group.

Workers at Butere Sub-County Hospital have downed their tools over delayed salaries.

The hospital has not been cleaned since Monday, leaving a foul smell right from the main gates and putting patients at risk of re-infection.

Cleaners have gone for seven months without pay, amounting to over Sh2.5 million, while technical staff are demanding delayed payments for 12 months.

Ms Celestine Rapando, the cleaning services supervisor, said the strike was supposed to start on Thursday last week but was moved to Monday to allow hospital administrators to address their grievances.

“We thought by notifying them, they would consider our concerns. But they remained quiet and we had nothing else to do,” she said.

“It is better to stay at home and look for other ways to survive than work here and go for months without anything to take home. We are lacking even soap for washing clothes or bathing after cleaning the stench in the wards.”

Water supply to the hospital was also disconnected over outstanding bills and patients must buy the water they need for drinking and washing.

The hospital relied on solar-pumped water but the panels were damaged by hailstones, said Health Chief Officer Dr Felister Moraa.

“The hailstones on Sunday evening paralysed our water system and we have engaged officials from the Water department to help us with water as we sort out the solar problem,” she said.

Kitchen closed for three months

The hospital kitchen was closed three months ago over non-payment of workers and patients buy their own food from outside.

The strike came a day after rain and heavy hailstones poured down in the area on Sunday evening, littering the hospital compound with broken tree trunks and leaves.

A doctor, who did not want to be named, said he and his colleagues could not attend to patients in filthy wards.

"The maternity ward is full of blood. Other wards have not been cleaned for two days. There is no way we can admit patients in such conditions," the doctor said.

The situation worsened after National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) payments and the Authority to Incur Expenses reverted to the county government and hospitals had to rely on supplies from the county headquarters.

"We used to collect close to Sh10 million per year. We could do purchases and pay workers on time. But since the county government claimed all the money, we get so little in return and they don't remit supplies," said a hospital official, who sought anonymity.

Former governor Wycliffe Oparanya’s administration started building a new Sh168 million structure meant to upgrade the hospital to Level Four status.

Adjacent to the three-storey building under construction, a mortuary estimated to cost Sh35 million is almost complete.

When he commissioned the modern hospital in January, Mr Oparanya said Sh100 million was included in the budget for the project meant to improve health services.

“We have followed all the laid-down procedures for construction of the new modern hospital. There is enough money that will take it to completion,” he said.

When new Governor Fernandes Barasa took the oath of office last week, he promised to improve services in hospitals across the 12 sub-counties.

Health officials attributed the cash crunch to the National Treasury’s failure to release funds to counties.

“We cannot release money that we don’t have. The reason for irregular funding to the facilities is because the national government does not disburse funds regularly,” said Health executive Dr Collins Matemba.


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