Nurses have now threatened to call for a nationwide strike to counter what they have said is arm-twisting from the national and county governments.
This is after the Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Lyn Meng’ich declared that the government would not be able to meet nurses’ pay demands because it can’t afford to.
She said that the Council of Governors, Ministry of Health and the National Treasury have all confirmed that they do not have money to pay the nurses.
Ms Meng’ich added that payment of the service and uniform allowances will lead to unsustainable levels of public debt.
“If we give in to the nurses demands, other health workers will also demand the same. This will have a ripple effect on the health sector,” she said.
While the push and pull continues to put at risk the lives of residents in 10 affected counties, who will continue to suffer, indications are that the strike might drag on for longer.
So far, nurses in ten counties are on strike while nurses from seven more counties including those working in the Ministry of Health are expected to lay down their tools Sunday.
The strike is on in West Pokot, Kisumu, Taita Taveta, TransNzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Wajir, Mandera, Vihiga, TharakaNithi, Nyandarua and Nyeri. Tomorrow, nurses in Garissa, the Ministry of Health, Samburu, Kirinyaga and Embu will join the strike.
In Kisumu County, surgical, laboratory and maternity services have been affected.
Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o has since appealed to the medics to return to work.
“Hundreds of patients are suffering since services at Kisumu County Hospital has been paralysed completely, due to the ongoing strike,” he said.
On February 18, Muranga, Busia, Nakuru, Siaya, Narok, Makueni, Bomet and Tana River will join the strike.
Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary general Seth Panyako said that they have been patiently waiting for the governors to act but read mischief in their assertion that there is no money yet it was budgeted for.
“The strike is on. We are ready to fight through all available means to have what is rightfully ours. We do not care where they will get the money but the nurses will not go back to work until they are paid their allowances,” said Mr Panyako.
He said nurses are being taken for a ride in the country.
“In 2017, we were tricked by the CoG who were purporting to be signing the agreement then they later changed after going back to work that they are not our employers. This time around we will not be cowed by anybody. We are going to call for a national strike,” he said.
Senators are now asking the governors to sit down with the nurses and thrash out a workable agreement so that services can resume in hospitals.
“We are calling upon governors who are affected to talk to the nurses and agree on when they will pay them. It is not that they do not have the money. Where do they get money to budget for millions for entertainment if they cannot pay little monies to nurses?” Chairperson of the Senate Labour committee Johnston Sakaja, posed.
He made the remarks during a meeting of stakeholders meant to air out thorny issues and looking for a way forward to the nurse’s issue.
Mr Sakaja alleged that the governors could have diverted the nurse’s money to other things.
He questioned why the SRC was saying that counties do not have the money yet some have paid and others committed to paying.
“Why are others paying and others not paying, where are they getting the money? What the nurses require is only Sh28 million a year per county. What is so difficult in giving peanuts to nurses yet they spend millions in masons and entertainment?” Asked Mr Sakaja.
Mr Sakaja said he had spoken to governors who had told him that they were willing to pay but could not because they had to seek authorisation.