Striking health workers risk losing their jobs, the government has said, stating that some of the issues raised by their unions are not attainable.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe yesterday said the government had done its best to ensure medics have a safe working environment.
Mr Kagwe said the government had no choice but to replace striking health workers, especially now that the country is grappling with a pandemic.
“All Kenyans have been affected by the pandemic. This is not to downplay the great work they have been doing because they are at more risk than other workers, but now is not the time to go on strike,” the CS said.
The healthcare paralysis across the country continued for the second day yesterday.
A spot check revealed empty hospitals after doctors, nurses and clinical officers stayed away from their workstations.
At Mbagathi Hospital in Nairobi, the Nation found a handful of patients sitting on the benches, with no health workers in sight.
The situation was a little different at the Kenyatta National Hospital, where doctors on contract were doing rounds in the wards as other medics stayed away.
Patients at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital received limited services.
In Kirinyaga County, however, healthcare services continued uninterrupted. A spot check at Kerugoya, Kimbimbi and Kianyaga hospitals established that doctors, nurses and clinical officers were on duty.
Governor Anne Waiguru said her administration had learnt many lessons from the 2019 strike and put place measures to deter any future recurrences.
Services in government hospitals in Meru remained paralysed. At the Meru Level Five hospital, patients in the wards have been discharged, leaving only one Covid-19 patient admitted to the ICU. “Some medics have remained behind to take care of the patient but after he is discharged, they will join us,” said a medic who sought anonymity.
Face disciplinary action
Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) upper Eastern region chairman Dennis Mugambi said they would not go back to work before receiving their salaries, risk allowances, personal protective equipment (PPE) and those under contract placed on permanent basis.
Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o has given striking health workers up to Saturday to return to work or face disciplinary action.
Prof Nyong’o, who visited Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital, said his government had met almost all the demands by the health workers.
“The health workers had no justification whatsoever to abandon helpless patients,” Prof Nyong’o said.
He explained that salary delays had been addressed and all county workers now earn their wages before 5th of every month.
“It was interesting that some of the doctors and nurses I have met today cannot explain why they are on strike, if not to be in solidarity with others who are boycotting duty for totally different reasons,” he said.
He wondered why doctors and nurses complained of lack of protection against Covid-19 yet there were enough PPE in the stores.
In Vihiga County, doctors yesterday said they were holding group meetings to solidify their industrial action. Through their KMPDU representative, Dr Joseph Magomere, the medics said the meetings were being held away from their work places.
In the Coast region, medical services were completely paralysed as hundreds of health workers boycotted duty. At Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital, the largest health facility with specialised services in the region, guards urged patients to seek treatment in private hospitals.
Health workers, led by nurses and clinicians, took to the streets demanding their dues. They marched to Governor Hassan Joho's office to seek audience with him.
“My own mother is sick. I have been forced to transfer her to a private hospital due to the strike. We won't go back to work until our grievances are addressed. The county called us for a meeting and we will go because it's a labour dispute,” Kenya National Union of Nurses Mombasa branch secretary Peter Maroko said.
More than 850 nurses who work in public hospitals in Mombasa have been on strike for six weeks now.
“For four months our UHC colleagues have not received their salaries. We are here to agitate for their rights,” said Miriam Wambua, chairperson of the Kenya National Union of Nurses Mombasa branch.
At the Nakuru Level Five hospital, patients were left at the mercy of students and interns, although most doctors’ offices were open.
At the casualty section, a few patients lined up for registration as the majority left to seek help in private hospitals.
A few health-care providers were also present at the Margaret Kenyatta Mother Baby Maternity Wing at the Nakuru Level Five hospital, who were attending to expectant mothers.
In Nyandarua, a deserted compound, unoccupied benches at the outpatient wing and padlocks at the entrance to the outpatient wing greeted the public.
Services in Narok and Samburu, however, went on uninterrupted.
Reporting by Nasibo Kabale, Elizabeth Ojina, Eric Matara,Waikwa Maina,Phyllis Musasia, George Sayagie, Geoffrey Ondieki,Winnie Atieno Derick Luvega, Vitalis Kimutai, Benson Ayienda, George Munene, Charles Wanyoro and Mercy Mwende