Nurses' strike kicks off, premature babies suffer in Samburu

Nurses have boycotted work in some parts of the county to protest what they say is a breach of a collective bargaining agreement they signed with the government.

The Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) had directed all its 45,000 members to strike starting Monday morning until the CBA is signed and implemented.


Services stalled in Kakamega and Vihiga counties as the health workers kept off work.

In Vihiga, all nursing services were paralysed as the caregivers met at Vihiga County Referral Hospital in Mbale and officially launched their boycott.

Patients were stranded at various health facilities, with many being caught unawares by the industrial action.

Nurses demonstrate in the streets of Kisumu town on June 5, 2017 over the failure by the national and county governments to honour their CBA. PHOTO | SILAS APOLLO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kakamega Knun branch chairman Renson Bulunya and his Vihiga counterpart Caleb Maloba separately declared the start of the strike.

They said they want effected the CBA agreement that awarded each nurse a Sh12,000 allowance beginning January this year, an amount that was expected to rise to Sh20,000 in July. 


“The government promised to sign the treaty in December last year but they have reneged on the promise,” said Mr Bulunya.

Mr Maloba said the government had failed to register the CBA in court and implement it.

“County governments have reneged on this and yet the implementation span was set for March 2. This is June, three months later. We will only resume duty after the CBA is implemented.”

Nurses demonstrate in the streets of Kisii on June 5, 2017 over the failure by the national and county governments to honour their CBA. PHOTO | BENSON MOMANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

In Kakamega County, doctors were forced to work with pharmacists as they struggled to attend to patients.

The striking workers kicked out student nurses attached to Kakamega General Hospital in a bid to make their grievances heard.

A patient at Kakamega General Hospital, Nancy Soita, had brought her 10-year-old son for treatment.


The child had a broken leg.

Knun Mombasa branch secretary Peter Maroko says the strike is officially on even as services went on uninterrupted at hospitals. PHOTO | MOHAMED AHMED | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“I have had to help the doctor apply a plaster on my son's leg because nurses are not working,” she told the Nation.

In Kisii, the caregivers took to the streets of Kisii town to demand action from the county government.

In Samburu, a crisis was looming after caregivers boycotted work.

Samburu County Referral Hospital was among the worst hit by the strike.

This ambulance is among vehicles used to transfer patients from Samburu Referral Hospital on June 5, 2017. PHOTO | GODFREY OUNDOH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Six Women removed their babies from the hospital's nurseries without doctors' consent, fearing for their lives without nurses.

Some 23 critically ill patients were referred to Mediheal Hospital in Nakuru, Wamba Mission Hospital and other private facilities for urgent care.


Ambulances, private cars, matatus and boda bodas were used to evacuate the invalids.

The outpatient section of the referral hospital remained deserted, with patients being turned away by security guards.

Cattle took advantage of the empty space, with many sheltering and chewing the cud in the corridors.

In Mombasa, the strike took off at noon after a series of meetings called by union officials in the morning.

A spot check by the Nation at Coast Provincial General Hospital found patients and their relatives waiting to be attended to in vain.


Esther Mkai, who visited the facility at around 7am, said her patient had not been attended to and instead wa issued with a discharge note.

“My patient is at ward eight. I went there early only for her to give me a note,” she said.

These parents are among those who withdrew their babies from nurseries at Samburu Referral Hospital on June 5, 2017. PHOTO | GODFREY OUNDOH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“The nurses in charge were asking people to leave. We are wondering where we are going with them, because they are forcing us out and my patient is yet to recover.”

But speaking in a briefing at Public Health Department offices in Mwembe-Tayari, Health Executive Binti Omar said county officials were not aware of patients being evicted from the hospital.


“The union in Mombasa has not issued any statement informing their nurses not to go to work,” she said.

“What we know is that nurses in all our hospitals are at their stations.”

But the job boycott failed to take off in Nyeri.

Operations went on as usual at Nyeri Referral Hospital, with new patients being admitted

Knun branch secretary Beatrice Nduati, however, insisted the nurses were on strike.


Operations at Nyeri Referral Hospital were not interrupted even as Knun officials insisted the strike was on.

Patients were still being admitted in the wee hours of Monday morning.

The hospital administration said no patients had been transferred to private hospitals in relation to the looming boycott.

A cow shelters at Samburu Referral Hospital on June 5, 2017. PHOTO | GODFREY OUNDOH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

"We are still working and no one has notified me of a strike,” said Silas Njoroge, the hospital medical superintendent.

“Everything is running smoothly."

But Knun branch secretary Beatrice Nduati said they had been instructed to down their tools.


"We want the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed. Nothing but the CBA," she said.

The county’s nurses recently ended another strike that started on May 1 over under-staffing and lack of promotions.

The industrial action ended after the county government delivered promotion letters to the nurses two weeks ago.

In Karatina, operations were affected at Karatina Sub-County Hospital, with services being delivered to outpatients only.

Residents who spoke to the Nation said the government should intervene and end the crisis before lives are lost.

"We always get frustrated when nurses and doctors are out of their work stations because a huge percentage of us cannot afford medical services in private hospitals, " said Joseph Njane.

Reported by Godfrey Oundoh, Irene Mugo, Mohamed Ahmed, Judy Mito, Derick Luvega and Benson Momanyi.