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Ministry, governors issue more threats as nurses dig in

Wednesday February 20 2019

nurses' strike

Elgeyo-Marakwet nurses when they took to the streets on February 12, 2019, demanding government honours a deal on service and uniform allowances. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ELIZABETH MERAB
By ELIZABETH MERAB
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The Health ministry and governors have threated to take disciplinary action against nurses who have defied court and presidential orders to resume duty.

Both levels of government have threatened to ensure that nurses who will be dismissed for failure to resume work will not be rehired either by the national or county level.

In a joint press statement, the Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki and chairman of the Council of Governors (CoG) Wycliffe Oparanya said that there are mechanisms to ensure that dismissed officers are not rehired.

The threat comes amid a headcount exercise in counties of striking health workers, with some nurses having already received show cause letters.

“It is hereby reiterated that the defiant nurses at both levels of government will face disciplinary action in accordance with existing government regulations,” reads the statement.

NURSES' DEMANDS

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To mitigate the impact of the strike, the two governments have embarked on remedial stop-gap measures, including hiring nurses on contract to ensure there is continued service delivery in hospitals.

“In the medium term period there is need to amend existing laws to provide recruitment of medical personnel on contract in emergency situations,” noted the statement.

The striking nurses are demanding uniform and nursing service allowances as they were promised in a November 2, 2017 deal.   

Nurses earn Sh20, 000 monthly in service allowance. It is to be increased to Sh30, 000 over three years from 2017. The uniform allowance was raised to Sh10, 000.

“The national and county governments shall stand guided by constitutionally mandated offices on matters regarding remuneration and benefits, and specifically counties that have signed return-to-work formula to ensure they have no financial implication and that counties that have illegally paid allowances shall be guided by the office of the Controller of Budgets,” they added.

Nurses defied a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta to report to work by Friday morning. Mr Kenyatta directed the Health ministry and county governments to dismiss nurses who defy court order to suspend strike.

These new threats are part of a series of government intimidations against nurses. While some coy nurses have adhered to the warnings and gone back to work, others have remained adamant.

Last week, Mr Oparanya instructed county bosses not to remit money to the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), saying it would no longer be the responsibility of county governments to deduct union dues from the health workers pay and remit to the unions.

So far, nurses in at least 19 counties are on strike.

According to a February 18 letter by the CoG, 250 of the 296 striking nurses in Garissa have received show cause letters.

Those in Taita-Taveta, Embu and Homa Bay counties have also been issued with letters. At Pumwani Hospital, Nairobi all 97 nurses who are members of KNUN have reported to work while 45 affiliated to the County Workers Union are still on strike.