Meru County staring at crisis as medics issue strike notice

Meru health workers

Healthcare workers hold prayers at the Meru Show Ground on March 21, 2020.

Photo credit: Charles Wanyoro | Nation Media Group

The county government is staring at a health crisis after medics issued a two-week strike notice, citing pay delays and no promotions.

Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union Upper Eastern Chairman Dennis Mugambi accused Governor Kiraitu Murungi’s administration of ignoring calls for talks to resolve the issues.

‘Staring at auctions’

“We’ve not been paid our April salaries and our NHIF [National Health Insurance Fund] premiums haven’t been paid for three months.

“Some of the doctors in Meru haven’t been promoted for the last 12 years. We’re staring at auctions over unpaid loans. If nothing is done, we’ll shut all hospitals in two weeks,” Dr Mugambi said on Thursday.

Health Chief Officer James Kirimi scoffed at the threats, saying, they go back to January.

“They can go ahead... but our hospitals will remain operational,” he said, adding, he had many applications from doctors who want to work in Meru, and that those not ready to work can go.

Health Executive Misheck Mutuma dismissed the doctors’ concerns, saying all issues had been resolved. He accused the medics of being used by Mr Murungi’s rivals to undermine the administration for political reasons.

Stating the Exchequer had delayed release of April salaries, Dr Mutuma added: “Everyone will be paid by next week. The doctors are impatient. We don’t have any pending labour issues.” 

The crisis has given Governor Murungi’s rivals in the race for governor political ammunition, with both Senator Mithika Linturi and Woman Rep Kawira Mwangaza accusing him of running down the health sector.

‘Statutory deductions

“I’m shocked at the bad state of our health facilities. When doctors raise their concerns, they should not be threatened. My first job when elected governor will be to improve our health sector,” Mr Linturi said during his inspection of health facilities in Igembe South.

Ms Mwangaza, who will run for governor on an independent ticket, accused the county executive of deliberately ignoring the health workers’ plight.

 “There’s constant bickering and strikes by workers demanding rights such as delayed salaries, promotions and remittance of statutory deductions in this administration,” she said.

Ms Mwangaza pledged to address health issues, review workers’ terms of employment, stop intimidation and improve delivery of health services, if elected.

In April, nurses and clinical officers accused the county government of failing to resolve various issues.

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