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The entrance of Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

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Kenyan Nurses and Clinical officers on strike over lack of PPEs in fight against COVID-19

NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 7 – Nurses and Clinical Officers downed tools Monday, in protest of lack of sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for those in the frontline in the war against COVID-19.

The two groups had issued strike notices to the government that lapsed Monday.

“We have been waiting for the government to honour its pledge to address the plight of nurses but that has not happened, that is why the strike had to start and it will only end once the issues are addressed,” said Seth Panyako, the nurses’ union Secretary-General.

The Kenya Union of Clinical Officers too issued what it described as the irreducible bare minimum, for the strike to be called off.

“This time round we said we are not going to suspend the strike on rhetoric,” said Peterson Wachira, the Union’s Chairperson.

The unions have accused the government of treating them to “empty rhetoric” since May without taking serious action.

The union said it had lost 9 clinical officers including a 32-year-old who is yet to be buried to a high hospital bill that has not been cleared.

Since March, the Union said, at least 763 Clinical Officers in public and private facilities have been infected by COVID-19.

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“We want to inform all Kenyans that your government has left you to your own devices,” Wachira said. “It is the government that is on strike.”

The doctors’ union, Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) had also threatened to mobilise a strike from Monday to protest the lack of adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) in hospitals as well as medical insurance cover particularly to those in the frontline fighting COVID-19 pandemic.

But under pressure from the government and the National Assembly, the union’s Secretary-General Dr. Chibanzi Mwachonda said they had opted to suspend the strike.

“The union acknowledges the efforts of the two houses of Parliament (National Assembly and Senate) to resolve the grievances raised in the strike notice dated 16th November 2020. We acknowledge the goodwill of the Kenyan doctors and the public. KMPDU looks forward to the meetings set for 9th and 10th December by the Senate and National Assembly Health committees respectively,” Dr. Mwachonda in suspending the strike for two weeks.

He said if their grievances remain unresolved, the strike will kick off on December 21.

National Assembly’s Health Committee Chairperson Sabina Chege blamed the Health Ministry for taking too long to address the issues raised by doctors.

“I can see there is light at the end of the tunnel and I know you love your job. If you leave we will all suffer. We have seen and heard where the difficulties are. Some are willing others are not and we can tell Kenyans what is happening” Chege said, and pleaded with doctors to suspend the strike.

More than 30 healthcare workers and at least 10 specialised doctors have succumbed to COVID-19 since April.

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