Nurses in Mandera down tools in a bid to push for promotions

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What you need to know:

  • The strike by specialised nurses has affected vital services at Mandera County Referral Hospital.
  • The ICU and the renal unit are among departments closed at the referral hospital.
  • But Health CEC Mohamud Adan Mohamed denied reports that services at the hospital have been paralysed.
  • He said the county will be engaging the rest of the nurses who are planning to join their colleagues on strike.

Nurses in Mandera County have begun a strike aiming at pushing Governor Ali Roba’s administration to promote them and offer them better working conditions.

Mr Abdirahman Mohamed Haji, the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) Mandera chapter chairman said the first group of nurses went on strike on Friday.

“We issued a strike notice on July 10 and it will be ending on Wednesday when we shall all go on strike but specialised nurses have commenced the strike,” he said.

The move by the specialised nurses to go on strike has affected vital services at the Mandera County Referral Hospital and patients have been forced to seek treatment from private hospitals in the town.

The intensive care unit (ICU) and the renal unit are among departments closed at the referral hospital.

Empty promises

“Nephrology nurses, anaesthetists and those at ICU are already on strike and from Wednesday all other nurses will be joining them to push for our rights,” said Mr Haji.

According to Mr Haji, the county government has been taking the 450 nurses in Mandera in circles and giving empty promises every time they issue a strike notice or go on strike.

“Since 2013, there have been no promotions for nurses in Mandera County except for those who were fronted to the devolved unit by the national government on the advent of devolution,” he said.

In 2013, nurses inherited from the national government were promoted and in 2015 when Knun issued a strike notice, Governor Roba averted it by promising to promote all its members in Mandera.

This never happened according to Mr Haji and in 2017, they went on strike but “the same trick was applied and they returned to work”.

Return to work formula

“It emerged that the return to work formula we signed in 2017 was illegal as the county government officials claimed it was signed by unauthorised persons,” said Mr Haji.

In 2019, nurses went on strike and signed a deal that indicated promotions would be effected in January 2020 but that never happened according to the Knun official.

“Nothing has been forthcoming from the county leadership and we have been forced to use the industrial means to communicate our message,” he said.

Mr Haji added that since the strike notice was issued last month, the county government administration has showed no interest in engaging the nurses to resolve the outstanding issues.

With the renal unit at the referral hospital affected by the strike, more than 21 patients have been left to seek dialysis services elsewhere.

No dialysis

“I have been undergoing dialysis at this hospital but when I came this morning I was told the facility is closed and there will be no services. I am confused,” said Mr Mohamed Adan.

The renal unit at the hospital with a five-bed capacity conducts two dialysis sessions of four hours each for its 21 patients daily.

“Patients with kidney problems will have to seek medications elsewhere until our grievances are dealt with,” said Mr Haji.

Operations at the hospital’s theatre have also stalled following the strike by specialised nurses at the county’s biggest hospital which also serves parts of Ethiopia and Somalia.

But Mandera County Health Minister Mohamud Adan Mohamed denied reports that services at the hospital have been paralysed.

‘Services on’

“I know that nurses at the renal unit and theatre are on strike but the services are on as we engage those on strike,” he said.

Mr Mohamed said promotions for nurses in Mandera are factored in the 2020/2021 county budget that is yet to be passed by the assembly.

“We have factored their promotions in this year’s budget but the stalemate at the Senate is delaying the process locally,” he said.

He said only medical officers who are due will be promoted and not the lot as demanded by the Knun.

“The human resource policy states that promotion is after three years of service and most of these nurses offering specialised services have less than three years in service,” he said.

Mr Mohamed asked the striking lot of nurses to consider the offer the county government gave them by sending them for training which enabled them attain their current expertise.

“These are people the county government sponsored their training by paying everything and now they have forgotten that,” he said.

He said the county will be engaging the rest of the nurses who are planning to join their colleagues who are on strike from Wednesday.