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6 patients die as disputed nurses strike enters second day

KNUN Acting Chairperson Joseph Ngwasi dismissed claims by embattled union chairperson John Bii that the ongoing strike was not legally protected/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 6 – Six patients have died at the Coast General Hospital as the nurses strike entered its second day Tuesday.

Confirming the fatalities, Mombasa Health Chief Officer Khadija Shikely said three patients died at the emergency section while the other three passed away in the hospital wards.

Shikely said the situation was under assessment even as Capital FM News established that the hospital was already discharging patients in a number of wards.

Meanwhile, confusion has taken centre-stage among Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) members as union officials differed on the validity of the strike.

KNUN Acting Chairperson Joseph Ngwasi dismissed claims by embattled union chairperson John Bii that the ongoing strike was not legally protected.

Reacting to a statement issued Tuesday by Bii who was reinstated as union chairperson by the Employment and Labour Relations Court in February, Ngwasi told Capital FM News at the union headquarters in Nairobi that Bii was dismissed by the union in December (2016) and does not speak on its behalf.

“The chairperson of the union if Joseph Ngwasi who is on an acting capacity until that decision is ratified by the National Governing Council of the Union,” he said.

“John Bii was the Chairperson of KNUN therefore he cannot purport to be speaking on behalf of the nurses because he is not in touch with the nurses themselves.”

He insisted that nurses will defy the call by Bii to resume their duties saying union members will not take orders from “an impostor”.

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On the draft 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which the Council of Governors’ Chairperson Josphat Nanok said would cost Sh40.3 billion, Ngwasi said the figure was misleading and “could have been deliberately inflated.” arguing that the actual cost of the deal is Sh7.5 billion annually.

“The CoG is misleading Kenyans on the total amount required to finance the CBA. The nurses CBA requires Sh7.5 billion annually that makes it a total of about 30 billion to finance the CBA for the four years,” he stated.

Bii’s troubles at KNUN begun in February this year when he filed a case in court seeking for the ouster of Secretary General Seth Panyako who he accused of abuse of office.

Bii argued that Panyako who is vying for the Kakamega senatorial seat was misusing union properties and his position while pursuing his political ambitions.

He then won interim orders after Lady Justice Monica Mbaru directed Panyako to surrender two vehicles belonging to the union registered as KCC 757R and KBV 269N, among other resources.

The strike which begun Sunday midnight has led to paralysis of health services in some medical facilities in the country as nurses made good their threat to strike pending signing of the CBA.

In Mombasa, operations at the Coast General Hospital came to a near standstill on Monday as nurses boycotted their duties.

KNUN branch Secretary General at the coastal city told Capital FM News that the strike will continue as scheduled until the nurses CBA is signed.

“There’re no services that are going to be rendered by nurses and therefore we advice that patients seek alternative hospitals because we would not wish them to be admitted and they are not being attended to,” he said.

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While addressing the media at CoG offices in Westlands on Monday, Nanok said the CBA had been concluded but the council was awaiting a “no objection letter” from the Salaries and Remunerations Commission (SRC) before instructing county governments to append their signatures on the agreement.

“The Government (County and National) is following due process to ensure the CBA is signed and that it shall not have any legal challenges in the registration process,” the newly inaugurated council chair said.

With the SRC having declined to take part in CBA negotiations since they commenced on January 15, it is still not clear whether the commission will issue a mandate letter to CoG with sources at SRC saying the proposed pay is likely to distort the pay structure in public services.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Governor Nanok who said “the amount would require a huge adjustment of budgets of both National and County Governments to cater for it”, suggesting that it would be foolhardy to implement the agreement.

“However, the government is still in talks with the union to come with an amicable solution,” he said accompanied by Kisii Governor James Ongwae and Health Principal Secretary Julius Korir.


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