A visit to Mandera County referral hospital shows how the strike has affected health services.
The national nurses’ strike now on the fourth month has paralysed operation in hospitals countrywide.
Nurses are the backbone of healthcare especially in rural areas where there are no doctors and very few clinical officers.
In the case of Mandera, the only departments that have not been affected by the strike and run my medical doctors include outpatient department, laboratory, x-ray, pharmacy and special clinics.
According to the Chief Officer of Health Maryan Dubow, dialogue meetings with the nurses were called but bored little fruit at first. It is on this backdrop that they were forced to recruit new nurses to fill in the gaps.
“The strike by the nurses is a national concern since it affects all the counties. In Mandera referral hospital over 80 nurses work there. At the beginning of the strike we tried to engage the nurses on numerous occasion but it never bore fruit,” said Ms Dubow.
But according to Mohamednur Maalim, the secretary general nurses’ union in Mandera County, the county government failed to dialogue with them to end the strike.
“The county government haven’t called for any meaningful dialogue meeting; either in writing or informal. Our position is that we will continue with the strike till when the concluded and negotiated nurse’s CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) is signed and deposited in the industrial labour court,” said Mr. Abdi in an interview with AfyaSmile Kenya.
The county government advertised for nurse’s positions to help re-operationalize the crippled departments. However, this didn’t auger well with the striking nurses who believe the move to replace them is unconstitutional.
“The county government advertised for nurses at the county level: 150 registered nurses and 50 enroll nurses. I think this is meant to replace the striking nurses. It is unconstitutional and illegal because you cannot replace a staff who is agitating for his/her constitutional right, we shall not relent in seeking justice in the corridors of the courts,” Mr Abdi added.
Ms Dubow says there is no plan to replace the striking nurses but the strategy is geared towards providing alternative and temporary solution to the ailing health sector.
“Two weeks ago we advertised for nurses to be working under contractual basis to mitigate the effect of the strike which took longer than we anticipated. So far we received 10 nurses to operationalize the major areas affected. We are not replacing the striking nurses, in fact, we want them to come back,” she clarified.
According to the county government, salaries of the nurses were withheld due to their abandonment of critical health services.
Dubow said that the county cannot pick the CBA and sign because the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) didn’t approved. Nurses on their part maintain they ready for negotiation as long the agreement is signed.
“We plead with our governor to liaise with the Council of Governors (CoG), lobby Salaries and Remuneration Commission to give out no objection letter to give ways for the signing the implementation of the nurses CBA. We are ready to listen to whatever approach they have and ready to go for any meeting called by the governor,” Mr Abdi urged.
He further stated that they were ready to resume duty is all their grievances are addressed.
The current strike came as a result of the CoG and ministry of health reneging on earlier agreement which was signed in December 14, 2016. The CBA was to be negotiated and concluded not later than March 2, 2017.
Council of governors, at the end of May, reported rejection of the CBA by the SRC which set stage for the strike.