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KNH staff call off strike

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 24 – Unionisable staff at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), the largest referral hospital in East and Central Africa, on Wednesday called off an intended strike after a payment agreement of the Sh292 million salary arrears was reached.

KNH Public Relations Officer Simon Ithai said the seven months debt would be paid in three installments.

“On January 9 2009, they will be paid one month’s arrears then for the second month will be paid on January 30. The third and fourth months will be paid in February while the last three months will be paid at the end of March 2009,” Mr Ithai said.

On Friday last week, the health workers boycotted their duties and only returned following intervention by Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o.

However, they threatened to go on strike if their demands were not met.

Reverend John Thiong’o, a union official, said they held a meeting with the hospital management on Tuesday and agreed on the mode of payment.

“We have agreed with the management and signed and we have informed the workers. We will not go on strike because we have now sorted out the problem,” he said.

On Tuesday, Medical Services Permanent Secretary, Professor James Ole Kiyiapi told Capital News that the government had identified resources to pay off the debt.

In April last year, the government agreed to give a pay rise to staff at the hospital through a Collective Bargaining Agreement. However they only earned the new figures for six months, before their pay went back down to their former salary.

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In July this year, which was the start of a new fiscal year, their pay increment was once again effected.

Meanwhile, the government has paid off part of a Sh1.6 billion debt owed to medical suppliers by the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA).

The Ministry of Medical Services on Tuesday handed over a cheque of Sh800 million to the institution’s acting Chief Executive Officer Dr John Munyu for payment of the pending bills owed to suppliers of medical commodities during the last fiscal year.

KEMSA’s Public Relations Manager Dominic Kabiru told Capital News that 34 suppliers would be paid from the funds.

“We have started disbursing the same and by close of business today (Wednesday) we will have dispatched all the cheques that are pending,” he said.

Mr Kabiru said the government had also committed to settle the balance of Sh800 million in the first quarter of 2009 under provision of the revised budget.

KEMSA is a semi- autonomous corporate entity that procures and distributes drugs to public health facilities and is currently the only authorised government agency charged with procuring and distributing pharmaceuticals to public hospitals across the country.

In October, its Chief Executive Officer Dr Charles Kandie and the Board of Management were dismissed for interfering with the agency’s operations and misappropriation of funds.

A taskforce that had been established to investigate the operations at the institution recommended that KEMSA be restructured and reorganised to allow recruitment of suitable staff and rationalisation.

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“KEMSA should undertake an urgent human resources audit of skills, expertise and numbers required in various departments in line with the anticipated reorganisation,” the report recommended.


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