Crisis looming as Mombasa health workers issue strike notice

Mombasa health workers strike

Police officers attempt to stop health workers from Coast General Hospital in Mombasa County during a demonstration on along Abdelnasser road on December 15, 2020.

Photo credit: Laban Walloga | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The health workers under the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) and the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), accused the county government of non-remittance of loan deductions.

Health workers in Mombasa County have issued a strike notice due to unresolved issues with their employer, including non-remittance of loan deductions.

The more than 1,000 health workers, under the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) and the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), accused the county government of non-remittance of loan deductions.

“When we ended a strike that lasted over three months on February 2, we agreed that all issues around delayed salaries, promotions, statutory deductions, among others, would be resolved. However, our members have been left on their own as far as salaries are concerned since the county has not remitted loan deductions, prompting banks to withhold salaries,” said Kuco’s Mombasa secretary-general Franklin Makanga.

Medics "suffering"

Mr Makanga further accused the county government of being non-committal in resolving their grievances, regardless of set deadlines.

He said the county was supposed to finalise an agreement with all unions representing nurses, doctors, clinical officers, laboratory technicians and other cadres by June 30.

“That has not been the case. It is on this backdrop that we wish to advise Governor Hassan Joho to take responsibility for the incompetence of his administration and for failing to honour its part in relation to the return-to-work formula,” he told the Nation.

He said the unions have already issued a strike notice to their employer.

“We are suffering as frontline health workers. Our members are getting infected with the virus while working but they cannot access health services because the insurance that covers us has not received remitted funds.”

Contacted, acting county secretary Joab Tumbo said he would respond later.

Past strike

In February, Mombasa’s health workers, including nurses, clinical officers and laboratory technicians called off a strike after reaching an agreement with their employer.

The administration assured residents that the county would avert a health crisis by negotiating in advance with the health workers, who now want Governor Joho to stamp authority.

“We have a meeting on Thursday this week. If they won’t address our concerns, we will strike,” said KNUN’s Mombasa official Peter Maroko.

The strike will affect the county's fight against the Covid-19 pandemic amid a spike in the number of infections.

As of July 16, the county had recorded 91 cases, with Mvita sub-county leading with 37 and Nyali reporting 19, Kisauni 14, Jomvu nine, Changamwe five and Likoni three.

Since March 22 last year, when the first case was recorded in Mombasa, a total of 12,788 cases, including 255 deaths, have been confirmed.

ICUs full

Last week, three workers’ unions claimed some of their members were being treated for the respiratory disease but have inadequate medical cover.

A health worker who said he was being treated for Covid-19 at Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital (CGTRH) revealed that isolation beds were full.

“At the Covid-19 ICU, the eight beds are full. In the normal ICU, the 12 beds are also full. The situation is dire,” said the worker, who requested anonymity.

On July 5, Doreen Kaptum, 28, a clinical officer at a private hospital who was pregnant, was rushed to CGTRH. She succumbed to Covid-19 on July 10 a few days after giving birth by emergency caesarean section. The health workers claimed their colleague died because of an oxygen crisis.

“The C-section was delayed and pushed to July 7 due to lack of ICU beds,” said Mr Makanga.

“Our colleague’s Covid-19 status was diagnosed late, but matters were aggravated at the ICU due to the current oxygen crisis at CGTRH.”

Caution advised

Kuco has also advised its members to take extra precautions in dealing with Covid-19.

“Most of our colleagues have not been vaccinated and they are contracting the virus at their workplaces. We must be vaccinated, the disease is spiking, and people have let their guards down,” said Mr Makanga.

At the same time, the county’s Health department has warned residents against disregarding the Covid-19 protocols.

Currently, there are over 62 coronavirus patients admitted in various hospitals within the county.

However, the county’s public health chief officer, Ms Pauline Oginga, refuted reports of a spike.

“There’s no spike. Cases are fluctuating because of testing, when we lack reagents, we take our samples to Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Kilifi which is also relied on by other counties at the Coast,” she said.