The Tana River County Government has suspended a nurse who was captured on video attending to an expectant mother at the Garsen Health Centre while drunk.
The Health, Sanitation and Medical Services County Executive Committee Member, Mwanajuma Habwoka Hiribae at the same time apologised to the patient who was being attended to on the night of Saturday May 4, 2019.
In the video that went viral, the clinical staff was seen to be drunk and members of the public, ostensibly relatives of the woman in labour, were trying to evict him from the facility to prevent him from handling the patient.
Mrs. Hiribae described the incident as saddening, appalling and disrespectful to the clients of the facility and the entire county and warned that such behaviour would not be tolerated.
“This was a regrettable incident that should not have happened in the first place and we take this early opportunity to apologise to the aggrieved family and the Garsen community,” she said in a press statement.
She added: “The department has since placed the officer in question on suspension as we institute other disciplinary measures deserving of this magnitude of misconduct.”
Mrs. Hiribae said her department was aware of other health workers who had continued to embarrass the employer through unacceptable conduct in their respective places of work, and who have in the past received lighter duties.
“Let this incident send a warning signal to others who have for a long time hidden behind the veil of alcohol,” she said.
She noted that drug and substance abuse was a common problem not only in the county but worldwide and underscored the need for public health systems to spearhead the prevention of the vice and treatment and care of victims.
“It is with this background in mind that the department has a rehabilitation unit at the Hola County Referral Hospital to support not only the department’s staff but all employees and members of the public struggling with the vice,” she said.
The CEC member said the department would propose the enactment of policies and measures that can control alcoholism in the workplace such as zero tolerance to alcoholism, and also come up with programmes such as health promotion, employee assistance programmes and counselling to curb the problem.
“It is time we addressed the problem of alcoholism in the workplace because it hampers organisational efficiency, employee health and safety, work relationship and increase in social and financial costs,” he said.
The Kenya National Union of Nurses, Tana River Branch Secretary, Damon Kwaraa said it had not yet been established if the officer in question was a nurse.
“We are still investigating to ascertain if it was a nurse and whether the incident took place at the health facility,” he said, adding, “Only then can we issue a comprehensive statement on the matter.”
He however, supported the CEC member’s idea of rehabilitating alcoholics, saying dismissing them from work would have more adverse repercussions especially to the victim’s dependants.
By Emmanuel Masha