Meru nurses who were on strike turned away from hospitals

Meru nurses

A section of nurses who gathered at the Meru County headquarters on February 2, 2021.

Photo credit: David Muchui | Nation Media Group

Confusion has shrouded the resumption of normalcy in Meru hospitals after nurses who were on strike were turned away from health facilities.

Following a court order requiring the nurses to resume work by 6pm on Friday last week, Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) Meru officials asked their members to obey the courts and report back.

However, Knun Meru branch secretary general Nesbitt Mugendi said the nurses were barred from accessing their places of work

Services remained paralysed in most health facilities with inpatient units being the most hit.

Meru Knun chairman Mugambi Bakari said some health facilities were sending away patients alongside the nurses.

On Monday, hundreds of nurses based at health facilities within North Imenti Sub County gathered at the county headquarters after a memo was issued requiring them to meet the Chief officer in charge of medical services.

“Nurses and Clinical Officers who have been on strike are directed to report to the Chief Officer – Medical Services for further direction.” The memo by Imenti North Medical officer of Health Janice Mukami states.

However, when contacted, Medical services Chief officer James Kirimi denied knowledge of the memo, saying he was not aware that the nurses had not reported to their places of work.

“I did not summon anyone. I am not aware,” Dr Kirimi said.

The Chief Officer said nurses who have been denied access ‘should go back to the court that ordered them to resume work.’

The nurses camped at the county headquarters for hours but left after failing to hear a word from the health officials.

“We waited for the directions from the Chief Officer in vain. No one talked to us yet we were instructed by our immediate bosses,” Mr Mugendi said.

Nurses in Meru have been on strike since mid-December last year demanding better pay and a better working environment.

On January 12, Meru health executive Misheck Mutuma threatened to fire striking health workers if they didn’t resume work by January 15, a directive that was defied by the unions.

Later, the County Public Service Board advertised 496 positions for new nurses leading to a court suit.

The Nyeri Employment and Labour Relations court stopped the recruitment of the new nurses and any exercise aimed at firing and replacing the striking workers pending the determination of the case.

In the case certified as urgent, Justice Njagi Marete, also restrained the Meru county government and the County Public Service Board (CPSB) through its workers or servants from victimizing the workers currently on strike.

The matter is set for hearing on February 3.

However, on Friday last week, the same court issued orders requiring the nurses to resume work as the union and the employer engaged in negotiations.