The Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) officials in Taita-Taveta County have dismissed attempts by the county government to sack them terming it inconsequential.
Mr. Reuben Matolo, KNUN secretary-general in the county, said that the dismissal letters being sent to the striking nurses were of no consequence as their strike was protected by law.
He added that the court order cited by the Health Department in the county as basis for sacking the workers was fraudulent as it was issued by court to specifically address the strike by medical workers for Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).
“The sacking attempts by this county are a non-issue. They are quoting an invalid court order that was issued for workers under NMS. Our strike is still on,” he said.
Speaking in Voi town on Monday during a meeting with hundreds of nurses, Mr. Matolo said the nurses would pursue their rights without fear of intimidation.
A week ago, Taita-Taveta County government said it had fired over 410 nurses who participated in the strike that continues to paralyze health services in the county.
The county, through the County Public Service Board (CPSB) advertised vacancies for medical workers in what was seen as an attempt to replace the sacked nurses.
Even then, the nurses remain unbowed.
Mr. Richard Nyambu, deputy Secretary General, said the union welcomed the move to hire nurses to plug in the staff deficit in the medical sector. He said the county had a deficit of over 300 nurses.
“The hiring of the nurses is a good move as it will increase the number of our staff. This is what we have been urging the county to do,” he said.
The nurses have been on strike since December last year. Negotiations that bring together the Ministry of Health, National nursing officials and Council of Governors have failed to yield the desired results.
In what might indicate a deepening crisis engulfing the health sector in Taita-Taveta County, the medics said they had started their own county strike-within-the national strike stating that the county nurses had unique issues that might not be fully addressed at the national level.
Mr. Matolo was categorical, “there is the national strike. As a county we have also started our strike within the national strike. This means that if the national strike is called off yet our grievances remain unaddressed, we will not resume work,” he stated.
Amongst the grievances they want looked into include lack of PPEs, lack of comprehensive medical cover for medics and non-payment of allowances. They also want fast-tracking of promotions and payment of salary arrears. The officials are also demanding for a special admission ward for medics who fall sick.
Ms. Halima Hassan, the chair of KNUN in the county, said the county needed to maintain the dignity of its health workers by giving them some privacy when they fell ill. She stated that it was very humiliating for a medic to be admitted in a common ward with other patients.
“It’s very humiliating to be admitted in the same ward with my patients. We need a different ward,” she explained.
There are also claims the county owes National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) over Sh 30 million as remittance from salaries of health workers.
By Wagema Mwangi