• Residents are forced to seek services in neighbouring counties.
• Confrontation led to closing of nearby businesses.
A cloud of tear gas hung over Kirinyaga county headquarters in Kutus town on Wednesday afternoon as anti-riot police officers engaged striking health workers.
The workers are seeking an audience with Governor Anne Waiguru over the stalemate that has grounded health services in the county.
What started as a peaceful march by the health workers towards the governor's office ended in chaos after security personnel clobbered and teargassed the medics.
"We are within our right to picket as long as we are not blocking any roads or causing chaos. In fact, what we are doing is a peaceful march so that the governor can address our demands. That is why we are not carrying placards or singing 'solidarity forever,'" KMPDU Central secretary general Gor Goody was at one time heard arguing with a senior police officer.
Gor said it was unfortunate that the governor has refused to have a dialogue with them.
"Let Waiguru come out of her ivory tower and address our demands. We are not asking for salary increment nor holidays; all we want is a conducive and hygienic environment to work in," she said, adding,"Our staff must also be motivated by being given promotions. The last time there was a promotion was 10 years ago and we will not relent in our quest."
As the strike entered day 30, the 1,000 striking health workers vowed not to report to work since their grievances had not been addressed and the county had given their jobs to interns "who are endangering the lives of patients".
At least four of the workers were injured in the melee and taken to the neighbouring Embu county for treatment.
Gor said she suffered an injury on her left leg after a tear gas canister hit her. She said they have engaged human rights lawyers to sue the security organs in the county since they had notified the police of their intended picketing and given the go-ahead.
Many shops were closed. At the renowned Kibera chicken joint opposite the governor's office, patrons scampered for safety, many leaving their uneaten food on the table. Customers took off with bills after tear gas engulfed the establishment.
"We have made a lot of losses today and it seems we will not be able to continue with work today since one canister landed inside our gate and the pungent smell is still irritating," a worker at the establishment told the press.
Waiguru has vowed not to succumb to pressure and said she will sack the striking health workers.
Meanwhile, Kirinyaga residents have to seek medical services from the neighbouring Embu, Nyeri and Murang'a counties.
Edited by R.Wamochie