Governors call for talks to avert medics’ strike

President William Ruto and members of the Council of Governors

President William Ruto and members of the Council of Governors during the flagging off of more than 20,000 medical oxygen cylinders at State House, Nairobi, on April 17, 2023.

Photo credit: PCS

Governors have called for talks with county healthcare workers to avert an imminent strike that is scheduled to start today.

Council of Governors Health committee chairman Muthomi Njuki pleaded with the health workers to reconsider their decision to down tools, saying most devolved units are operating under financial constraints.

The Tharaka Nithi governor said the strike by the health workers would only make the already fragile situation worse.

“We are operating between a rock and a hard place…should you go on strike because resources are not available, and we know the reason why the resources are not available, what we had built in so many years will just go to waste because we will slide back to where we were before,” Governor Njuki said when he officiated a quarterly meeting of county executive committee members for health from the 47 counties.

He went on: “Our urge to the national government is that we must have an engagement that is for prosperity. If we decide to upscale to Sh5, 000 with an additional Sh500 for the NHIF, then let’s have a sustainability plan beyond three years,” he said.

Strike notice

Healthcare workers in 12 counties issued a strike notice last week over delayed salaries and poor management of health services at the county level.

Mr Njuki said the council’s reconciliation team is at the moment engaging with healthcare unions to resolve the dispute.

However, healthcare workers’ unions accused the national government of failing to address the challenges facing their members.

“Counties were to pay healthcare workers salaries by today failure to which there will be a go slow,” said Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) secretary general Davji Atellah.

He, however, noted that six of the 12 counties where healthcare workers had issued a strike notice had paid their medics.

He said Kisii, Murang’a, Nyeri, Laikipia, Embu and Taita-Taveta had made the required payments.

“Every fifth day of the month we want salaries to be paid to health workers,” said Dr Atellah.

Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary-general Seth Panyako accused the governors of ignoring their concerns and failing to address them.

“We send you letters and you say that you do not meet trade unions. You have been elected by Kenyans, let us use this opportunity to serve Kenyans,” he said.

The unions have urged the national government to ensure healthcare workers are treated with dignity.

“I will not be in a government that does not fight for the people. Teachers and police get their salaries on time but health workers are called essential and we are not even being paid,” said Mr Panyako

At the coast, health workers in Mombasa and Taita-Taveta counties vowed to boycott duty from today in protest over the delayed payment of their March salaries and the failure to remit statutory deductions.

“How come Kwale, Kilifi and Tana River have no issues? Why only Mombasa and Taita-Taveta? If they are unable to run the health sector let it be reverted to the national government,” said KMPDU Mombasa branch chairman Dr Gharib Salim Ali.

Reported by Collins Omulo, Hellen Aura and Winnie Atieno