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Health workers down their tools over March pay

The  Health workers at the Garissa Level Five Hospital downed their tools on Friday, over delayed March pay, paralyzing operations at referral facility that also serves neighbouring counties of Wajir, Tana River and Kitui.

Waving placards with messages ‘no pay, no health services, no pay no dialysis, Garissa County is joking with Covid-19’, the workers vowed not to resume work until they are paid their salary among other demands.

They claimed that they gave the County Authority enough notice to resolve their issues but they have been ignoring them.

The strike involved all cadres of health workers, including general physicians, doctors, surgeons, nurses, pediatricians, pharmacist, nutritionist, lab technologists, dentist, clinical officers and support staff.

Addressing the press on their behalf, the Acting Chair of the Garissa Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU), Dr. Hassan Abdi Mohamed,  the County Secretary, Abdi Sheikh said that staff salaries have continuously been delayed for the past three years, raising anxiety amongst the workers.

“Salaries have been gradually delaying for the last three years. You can imagine its now 23rd April and healthcare workers have not been paid their March salary. We won’t resume until salaries are paid,” Hassan said.

“Salaries among other benefits of staff at the Hospital are handled casualty. We have raised our concern with the relevant authorities but nobody seems to take us seriously. This is our last resort to have our grievances addressed,” he added.

He said leave allowances for the workers have not been paid for the last three years.

Other grievances they demand should be addressed include, promotions for staff who have served in the same grade for over five years, non-remittance of NHIF, NSSF as well as union subscription fee.

The strike comes at a time when the country is overly depending on her health workers as frontline soldiers at the battlefield and first line of defense in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Union official claimed that the County Administration is ill prepared to deal with Covid-19 outbreak.

“The facility lacks basic essentials among them cloves. It will be very difficult for our health workers to handle Covid-19 with only 15 beds, lack of enough Personal Protective gear (PPEs) and ventilators,” he said.

The official vowed to hold what they called a salary parade in every 6th of every month if the County will not pay their salary on time.

Hassan said that the Union members in the six Sub-counties of Balambala, Hulugho, Fafi, Ijara, Dadaab and Lagdera have also joined in the strike.

Staff members in other departments have also been silently complaining over delayed payment of their salaries.

According to one staff member who requested anonymity, their February salary was paid on March 18 and has been the trend for the last few months.

As health workers walked away from one of the biggest referral hospital in the county, patients were turned away as relatives started withdrawing their loved ones from the wards.

Efforts to reach the County Secretary, Abdi Sheikh  for comment  was unsuccessful as his phone went unanswered

By Jacob Songok

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