SEVEN DAYS

Politicians fanning medics' strike, says Nyong'o

Promised to strip strikers from payroll but officials wouldn't say if they had been sacked.

In Summary

• Governor criticised unnamed political leaders he said have made published comments that the county was doing little to address the ongoing strike and ease suffering.

• Doctors and other county health workers have been on strike for a week as patients prematurely discharged, public hospitals empty.

Kisumu County Hospital deserted. No pregnant women or new mothers and babies.
EMPTY: Kisumu County Hospital deserted. No pregnant women or new mothers and babies.
Image: FAITH MATETE

Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o has said the strike by health workers is being fanned by politicians not concerned with medics’ grievances that are being resolved.

Nyong'o had said he would sack the striking medics if they didn't return to work last Friday. They didn't return.

Press director Aloice Ager said on Tuesday the governor's sacking directive still stands.

 

Doctors and other health workers have been on strike for a week, patients have been prematurely discharged and many cannot afford private hospitals.

Several Covid-19 patients were still being cared for in isolation units at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital. The county said it was fully operational.

In a statement on Monday night, the governor said media reports attributed to some MPs appeared to suggest the county was doing little to address the strike.

Nyong'o said nothing could be further from the truth. “I find their statements rather populist, unfair and tinged with untruths, political innuendos and assumptions,” his statement said.

The governor said his efforts to address workers’ grievances are well-documented and in public domain.

“Our MPs just needed a little time to look into these records to update themselves on what we have put on the table for our health workers,” Nyong’o said.

He said health workers had raised issues through their unions in meetings with the Executive and county assembly leaders.

 

They include delays in paying salary arrears and Covid-19 hazard allowances, alleged failure to implement promotions, failure to issue letters of promotions, redesignation and confirmation.

“It was agreed that 1,007 health workers had been promoted and processed through the payroll and all the other issues addressed. Only 127 promotion letters were to be issued,” the governor’s statement said.

He said the report on progress on these issues was to be presented to the assembly on Friday, June 12 but the unions refused to attend.

“With that in mind, there would be absolutely no reason for anybody to stay at home while enjoying his promotion and enhanced salary,” Nyong’o said.

He urged political leaders to carefully weigh their statements on the strike as the whole country battles the Covid-19 pandemic.

Resident Jane Anyango said they don’t want to experience what they did late last year when the health workers' strike lasted three months.

“Let the county pay the health workers. We are tired of the day-in-and-out strike. We understand the money for the promotions was approved by the assembly. Can we be told what is happening?”

At the Kisumu County Hospital, James Orinde stood stranded with his Universal Health Coverage card. 

“I haven't been feeling well for three days. Herbal and traditional medicine haven't worked so I decided to come here and see if I might get treatment since we were told some hospitals are functioning. But there is nothing," he said.

Transform Empowerment for Action Initiative (Team) director George Collins said the governor is not candid and sincere about health workers’ issues.

“Health is not a privilege, it’s an entitlement and just as you would want to take care of your health, the people are in need of services,” he said.

Press director Ager said the strikers’ names would be removed from the payroll as directed.

Kevin Osuri, Nyanza head of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists' Union, told the Star he does not know whether medics have been fired.

Maurice Opetu, Kisumu secretary of the Kenya National Union of Nurses, said the governor cannot sack anyone because the county is in contempt of court. He said the strike is legal.

Opetu said the county had not reached out to them and was instead trying to get injunctions to halt the work boycott.

He asked Nyong'o to meet health workers' demands and bring to book his county officers who misspent funds meant for medics’ promotions.

“He should sack those responsible officers instead of taking offence at health workers who have been sacrificing to serve residents under deplorable work conditions, including risking contracting the coronavirus,” Opetu said.

(Edited by V. Graham)

Kisumu County Hospital
Kisumu County Hospital
Image: FAITH MATETE
Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o
Kisumu Governor Anyang' Nyong'o
Image: FAITH MATETE