Locals suffer as medics in Taita Taveta refuse to end strike

Wednesday March 18 2020

Mr Jackson Mbithi displays a photo of his mother who died at his home on September 20, 2019 after she was discharged prematurely from Taveta Sub-County Hospital. Residents of Taita Taveta continue to suffer due to lack of medical services in public hospitals as the strike by health workers entered its fourth day on September 23, 2019. PHOTO | LUCY MKANYIKA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Mr Jackson Mbithi has nothing but tears as he narrates how his mother died at his home on Friday last week after she was discharged prematurely from Taveta Sub-County Hospital in Taita Taveta County.

He says he watched his mother die as efforts by a nurse they had contracted to give her home-based care bore no fruit.

He blames the ongoing strike by health workers in the county for her mother's death.

"The nurse tried to resuscitate her but she died," he said.


Ms Jane Kathumbi, 55, was admitted to the sub-county hospital on Monday last week due to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Her son says the family had high hopes that their mother would get treated and go back home after a few days.

"When the strike began, she was discharged while in a critical condition," he said.

He said her condition rapidly deteriorated and she was pronounced dead at 8pm as they were making plans to take her to Machakos Level Five Hospital for treatment.

"We did not have money to immediately take her to another hospital. We were looking for money for her treatment," he said.


As the strike by health workers entered its fourth day on Monday, residents from across the county are suffering as they are forced to seek treatment in private hospitals.

Over 1,000 members of the Kenya Medical, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (Kmpdu), Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun), Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (Kuco) Kenya National Union of Medical Laboratory Officers, Kenya Health Professionals Society and Kenya County Government Workers Union went on strike on Friday last week.

The health workers have vowed not to return to work or participate in talks not meant to resolve grievances raised through their unions.


They are complaining of persistent unresolved issues that include constant salary delays, late remittance of statutory and third party deductions, poor working conditions and shortage of staff.

They also want the county government to tackle lack of comprehensive health insurance for the workers, non-payment of casuals, perennial shortage of drugs and other pharmaceutical essentials in local hospitals.

Guards manning public hospitals continue to turn away patients as the countywide strike hits residents who cannot afford to pay for treatment in private facilities.


Even as residents continue to suffer, there were no signs of an agreement between the county government and the workers.

Knun officials revealed that they had been invited for talks on Tuesday by the county government.

The invitation was made by the County Labour Officer Stephen Gona.

"We will attend the meeting but if they have no solution to the issues we raised we will not end the strike," said Knun's Organising Secretary Synnette Ogola.

Mr Ogola said the county government has been taking them for a ride every time they raise grievances.

“We feel sorry for residents because we know they are suffering. However, this is necessary to make the county government pay attention," he said.

We are tired of fake promises. This time we will not be fooled," he added.


He claimed that their lives are in danger as some of the union officials are being threatened by unknown people.

Mr Ogola alleged that a guard was injured after unknown people stormed his colleague's private clinic demanding to see him.

"We have reported the matter to the police for investigations. We are not taking this lightly," he said.

The county government has remained silent on the stalemate that has affected locals.

Efforts to reach county Health officials for comment were futile as they did not pick calls or reply to text messages.

Sources told the Nation that top county officials met on Sunday to discuss the stalemate that has completely paralysed health services in Taita Taveta.

"They should resolve this strike immediately to reduce the suffering by ordinary residents who cannot afford costly treatment in private hospitals," said a Voi resident Fatuma Oyera.