NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 10 – Operations were on Tuesday affected in several public hospitals across the country as health workers downed tools to protest a planned devolution of their pay to counties.
Those affected included the Coast Provincial General Hospital, Embu Provincial General Hospital as well as other hospitals upcountry where nurses, doctors and clinical officers kept away from work.
A spot check by Capital FM News revealed that Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) East Africa’s largest referral hospital was however, not affected by the strike.
“The national hospitals will continue running because there is nothing we are complaining about there. However, the problem that we are starting to see is that our people in the national hospitals have started complaining. As we speak there is a meeting at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital. The people there are saying that they want to down their tools because the workload is becoming too much,” said Sultani Matendechero, the Secretary General of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union.
He explained that the strike was called after health workers spent the better part of Monday in discussions with the government but hit a deadlock when both parties failed to agree.
“The Governors want to continue running health care in a lawless manner; in an environment which is not coordinated, in an environment where nobody knows what will happen. At that point, we disagreed. We tried as much as possible to talk to the Governors… we gave all forms of suggestions which can allow us to arrive at the establishment of these laws and they refused. They said we just continue without putting the necessary laws in place,” he said.
The officers who effectively downed their tools at midnight want their wages to be channelled through the national government and not the counties.
They are also unhappy with the manner in which the Transition Authority and the Governors’ Council are handling devolution of health services.
They argued that the process of devolving health is inconsistent with the Constitution, because no legislation has been established yet to oversee the process.
“There are some functions which must now remain at the national level and one of them is the personal emoluments of the health workers. Let us safeguard the salaries first as we sort out this other mess and then we have a clear road map that is going to lead us to the enactment of a law. When we just talked of a law, that is where we parted,” Matendechero said.
“When we just transferred the functions without the enactment of this policy, then we started having a lot of problems because first of all we do not know what a national facility is and what a county facility is so politicians have sat down and have grabbed facilities and so we are operating uncertainty,” he stated.
He said that health workers were also discouraged by the manner in which county officials were handling them in hospitals.
“We do not have laws that are going to guide even things as simple as supervision so that right now, county officials who are not even qualified come and start dictating to our people in hospitals to see particular patients and leave others. The reason that they are giving for this is also very discouraging because they tell you that this patient is from this county and this facility can only serve our people and then others later.”
Operations at the government hospitals in Kisumu County were in the meantime paralysed after clinical officers downed their tools to protest over devolving health sector at the county level.
A spot check at the provincial hospital and district hospitals revealed no ongoing work as patients were turned away.
An official from the local Union of Kenya Clinical Officers Edward Ojiema stated their solidarity with their union headquarters over the strike.
Ojiema said that they will stay out of work until the government negotiates with them over the grievances they are raising.