Nurses at Kenyatta National Hospital have joined the ongoing nationwide nurses’ job boycott.
The strike to push for recognition and implementation of the caregivers’ Collective Bargaining Agreement entered its 58th day on Monday.
While citing heavy workloads, the KNH nurses said they had decided to go on strike in solidarity with their colleagues in the counties.
Although they are not in dispute with their employer (the Ministry of Health), the nurses said the number of patients seeking treatment at KNH had surpassed the available human resource.
About 26,000 nurses in public health facilities across the country went on strike in June to protest what they believe is a breach of the CBA they signed with the government.
While remaining adamant that they will not renegotiate the CBA — which if implemented would see county governments spend nearly Sh40 billion — the nurses’ industrial action has prompted a number of health facilities to shut down, putting the lives of hundreds of patients at great risk.
As a result, operations at facilities like Mbagathi and Mama Lucy hospitals have been paralysed, forcing patients to go to KNH, whose resources are fast being depleted due to the pressure of exceeding numbers of patients being seen at the hospital.
The facility’s labour and antenatal wards, for instance, are outstretched. KNH’s newborn unit is under immense strain, with about 165 babies now occupying a unit designed for 50 babies, and the number may rise.
“The number of newborn babies is ranging between 165 and 185 and the resources including human and consumable resources are fast getting depleted,” said Marion Gakuna, a nurse at the hospital.
Sharing incubators is medically not encouraged as it exposes newborn babies to communicable diseases and other risks of cross infections.
However, the absence of nurses who tend to newborns in other public health facilities has forced the pressure to pile at KNH.
Doctors have volunteered to mediate talks to end the ongoing nurses' strike that has paralysed operations in public hospitals.
Speaking Monday during a medical camp at Lang’ata Women’s Prison, the chairman of the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Samuel Oroko, said they would strive to end the stalemate by talking to both the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) and the Council of Governors (CoG).
Dr Oroko also faulted the national government for opting to stay away from the talks.
“We want to mediate between Knun and the government to see if they can get what they bargained for in the CBA,” said Dr Oroko.
The Ministry of Health distanced itself from the standoff, saying that nurses' welfare is a county issue.
“The Ministry of Health cannot run away from provision of healthcare. It still its responsibility, so they should stop this rhetoric that health is devolved,” he said.