Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nurses’ strike paralyses services

PHOTO | GUDEON MAUNDU Nurses in Mombasa County protest outside the Coast General Hospital on December 4, 2012 to demand registration of their union.

PHOTO | GUDEON MAUNDU Nurses in Mombasa County protest outside the Coast General Hospital on December 4, 2012 to demand registration of their union.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NATION TEAM newsdesk@ke.nationmedia.com

Vital services were paralysed at government health institutions in Mombasa as more than 300 nurses continued with their strike for the second day running.

Nurses from Coast General Hospital (CGH) and various district hospitals among them Tudor, Likoni and Port Reitz spilled into the streets as public hospitals transferred patients to private institutions.

In Nairobi, striking nurses on Tuesday marched to the Ministry of Labour headquarters demanding the certificate of registration of their union.

Led by the Kenya National Union of Nurses chairman Josphinus Musundi and secretary-general Seth Panyako, the nurses — some of whom had travelled from Kiambu, Athi River and Machakos — said they would not resume duty until the union was registered. (Read: Union urges nurses to ignore strike call)

Missing minister
Mr Musundi complained that no senior ministry official was at hand to receive their petition.

“The officials want patients in public hospitals to continue suffering by failing to register our union,” Mr Musundi said.

A spot check by the Nation at the CGH revealed that up to 200 patients left on their own volition, while some were discharged by doctors when nurses failed to report to work.

Ms Alice Nyambura, whom we met at the hospital returning home with her five-year-old daughter, said: “I brought my daughter for a minor operation: she had overgrown tonsils. But I am going back home since doctors said the patient has to be prepared by nurses, who are on strike, before the operation.”

We found another distraught family leaving for home with a seven-year-old boy after an operation was declared impossible.

“My son was admitted on Sunday and an operation scheduled for today. But we have been told it can’t be done because nurses are on strike,” the boy’s mother, Ms Jacinta Baya, said.

On Monday, the nurses held a meeting with Mombasa labour commissioner Joel Mwanzia, who supported the strike, saying, they have a right to form a union in line with labour laws.

“It’s not the Labour Minister who refused to register your union, but the board of directors,” he said.

He urged the nurses to take their grievances to the Industrial Court, but they rejected the proposal saying they had only up to December 30 to register the union.

“We know this is a deliberate move to further delay the registration. But we shall not resume work until we are registered because we are not adequately represented in other unions,” their spokesman Mr Peter Maroko, said.

He said the nurses’ issues were not adequately handled by the umbrella Union of Kenya Civil Servants, which deducts Sh200 from their monthly salaries and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers.

In Nyeri, nurses vowed to go on with the strike until their demands are met as a group of 200 nurses from public hospitals in the county held a peaceful demonstration in Nyeri Town.

Led by the National Nurses Association of Kenya national chairman Jeremiah Maina, they demanded the registration of their union to voice their grievances.

“We want to have our own union, failure to which the nurses’ strike will still continue,” Mr Maina said.

By James Ngunjiri, Anthony Kitimo, Mike Mwaniki and Daniel Nyassy

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