City health workers accuse NMS of neglect

Some of the health workers from Nairobi County Government hold a protest at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on November 2, 2020.

Photo credit: File

Nairobi County government healthcare workers hired on contract have said the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has failed to promote them, even though Sh538 million was set aside for that purpose.

The 1,600 staff decried that a majority of them have been on probation for more than 12 years and are yet to be absorbed on permanent terms even as the NMS returned the allocated money to the Treasury.

Kenya Union of Nurses Nairobi branch secretary Boaz Onchari said this is one of the unresolved grievances behind perennial strikes in the health sector in the capital.

“Our sector has had the most strikes because our issues have not been addressed. Many staff employed in the year 2010 have been on probation for 12 years,” said Mr Onchari.

“Are they supposed to spend their whole working life on probation where they cannot even get a loan with a payslip that shows they are not permanent employees?”

No promotions had been made in many years, he said, and some employees have moved up only one grade in about 20 years.

“We were shocked to realise that NMS, in the last financial year, returned Sh538 million that had been set aside for promotion of staff,” he claimed.

Mr Onchari was speaking during a meeting between officials of healthcare workers’ unions and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who is also the Kenya Kwanza coalition’s candidate for Nairobi governor, to present to him a memorandum on the challenges they face.

Lower-cadre employees

Clinical Workers Union Nairobi branch secretary Tom Nyagaka said that only doctors are promoted to run hospitals yet lower-cadre employees like nurses and clinical officers can also do the job.

“This has been long-running discrimination. There is no need to take a surgeon from theatre and make them medical superintendents to do administrative work when theatre is where they are needed most. Qualified staff from the other cadres should be given such opportunities as well,” said Mr Nyagaka.

Peterson Wachira, the chairman of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, added that only professionals from other sectors such as teachers and security officers are employed every year but not health workers.

“We need a policy that will ensure continued recruitment of health professionals every year,” said Mr Wachira.

For his part, Mr Sakaja committed to addressing the challenges if he is elected on August 9, pledging to employ on permanent terms the medical staff hired on contract.

He also said his administration would ring-fence health funds so that facilities never run out of commodities for essential services.

“Health is the most important devolved function and no governor should put health on the periphery,” Mr Sakaja said.

Mr Nyagaka called for the formation of a work council that would bring together county and union officials regularly to iron out labour relations issues so as to forestall strikes.

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