, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 13 – Health workers grudgingly streamed back to public hospitals on Tuesday as a deadly two-week standoff eased following assurances by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that their grievances would be addressed.
The health professionals agreed to end their strike after they met with the PM on Monday who promised to look into the matter after meeting with the Ministers for Medical Services, Public Health, Labour and the Treasury on Tuesday, for a full briefing on the situation.
At the Mbagathi District Hospital, a senior nursing officer told Capital News that operations were returning to normal at the facility.
“At least work is going on very well. People are coming back and those who are not yet present are still responding to the letters but at least by tomorrow, everybody will have come back,” she said.
“You can get about two people in every department and most of the people are sorting themselves out in their respective offices. About the letters, you can say that it was just a warning letter since people were supposed to respond.”
She pointed out that a resolution should be arrived at expeditiously as the strike had harmed a lot of people.
“Let them come back so that we can serve our Kenyans because most of them are suffering and in Mbagathi, we mostly treat the very sick who cannot afford to go to good hospitals,” she said. “Let us be good citizens and help our fellow Kenyans who are really suffering.”
The nurses had downed their tools to demand for harmonised allowances among other things.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga was set to meet with the health professionals on Wednesday to seal the deal.
President Mwai Kibaki stepped into the row on Tuesday and urged the health workers to embrace constructive dialogue whenever there are disagreements instead of taking actions that resulted in the suffering of patients.
Noting that the recent strikes by medical services personnel greatly compromised the lives of patients, President Kibaki emphasized that dialogue is the best approach in addressing industrial disputes.
“Let us always resort to constructive dialogue whenever there are disagreements and not take actions that will result to the suffering of the patients,” President Kibaki said
The president reassured that the government remains committed to properly remunerating the medical personnel within its economic abilities.
President Kibaki was speaking when he officially opened the Mission for Essential Drugs and Supply (MEDS) Centre in Kathiani Constituency in Machakos.
On Monday, the health professionals spent the better part of the day trying to seek audience with the PM and after a long struggle, they finally succeeded.
One team that was led by the National Nurses Association of Kenya Treasurer Jeremiah Maina camped at the PM’s office for four hours before joining their striking colleagues at Uhuru Park where they chanted slogans expressing their solidarity.
Speaking to Capital News, Maina said they would not be cowed or intimidated following last week’s pronouncement by the government that striking health workers had been sacked.
The Association’s National chairman Luke Kodambo urged all nurses who received termination letters not to panic.
The Union of Kenya Civil Servants Secretary General Tom Odege who was at the Ministry of Health headquarters pointed out that a compromise should instead be reached as fast as possible to break the deadlock.