Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o on Wednesday came under criticism in the House for referring to the nurses on strike as “zombies”.
MPs told Prof Nyong’o that he should have “sufficient respect” for the nurses, because they were exercising their rights as prescribed in the Constitution.
Dr Boni Khalwale (Ikolomani) notified the Deputy Speaker that the insult to the professionals was unwarranted and the minister should apologise.
But Prof Nyong’o retorted: “As long as anyone refuses to listen to reason, even if it is Dr Khalwale, that person is a zombie.”
He added that in the exercise of rights enshrined in the Constitution “there has to be some order and civility”.
Since it was unclear if word “zombie” was one of those banned in the House, the Deputy Speaker let the matter slide.
The nurses are pushing for the registration of their new union— Kenya National Union of Nurses.
Pro Nyong’o accused representatives of the nurses of refusing to meet him.
He said when he called them on their phones, they refused to answer and when he sent them a text message seeking to know why they did not want to talk to him, they told him, that he was in no position to solve their issue.
“Mr Seth Panyakoo, (one of the leaders of the unregistered union) said only the Minister of Labour could solve their problems,” the minister told the House.
The minister said the strike was illegal and added that the 3,000 nurses on strike would be fired.
The debate came as the nurses pressed on with their job boycott.
In Mombasa, the health workers burned an effigy of Prof Nyong’o, accusing him of abusing his office.
Coast Province Director of Medical Services Maurice Simiyu asked government officials to immediately grant striking nurses registration to their union in order to end the strike.
In Nyahururu District Hospital, no services were offered to patients as it is operating with a skeleton staff.
Patients were referred to private clinics as the striking nurses made away with keys to essential rooms.
By Alphonce Shiundu, Dickson Mwiti, Rebecca Okwany, Winnie Atieno and J. Kariuki.