Both the national and county governments have flatly rejected nurses' demands for enhanced allowances.
The National Treasury and the Council of Governors (CoG) Friday maintained that they have no money to pay the nurses, who are on strike.
The news, which is likely to escalate the standoff between the disaffected medics and the county governments, was relayed by the chairperson of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) Lyn Mengich at a press conference.
She said that, for the nurses to be paid their service and uniform allowance, the counties need about Sh3.5 billion a year which is not sustainable.
Ms Mengich said the SRC had received a confirmation from the governors and the Treasury that they do not have money to pay the nurses.
“We have received confirmation from 10 counties that indeed they have a budget, a budget is not funding but an estimate of what they expect from the Treasury,” she said.
She continued: “Even with the number, we have asked them to confirm whether they have funding, and none has confirmed. Budget is not funding, it is an estimate of monies that the counties need from the Treasury, counties do not have the money,” she said.
Ms Mengich said that, even if the funding was available, one of the key questions that the counties should consider is whether they would be able to sustain that in the long term.
“When we look at sustainability, we look at the actual cost of the payment. For the nursing and uniform allowance, it is going to cost Sh3.5 billion. This is for the nurses alone,” she said.
She added: “The allowance is not unique to the nurses alone, other healthcare workers are paid similar allowances. If the nurses' allowance is going to increase, definitely, others will also demand similar treatment.”
The clinical officers have since issued a strike notice demanding the same.
She said that, if all health service allowances are enhanced to the levels of the nursing service allowance within the health sector, the additional cost is estimated at Sh2.5 billion for the same period totalling to Sh6 billion for service allowance alone.
According to the chairperson, with the job evaluation carried out, nurses in the same grade with other public officers are paid much better.
The difference between what the nurses are earning and other staff in the same job grade is so wide that it is a cause for concern for the SRC over equity and fairness within the civil service.
“We know that there is a conciliation process going and we support it but we urge the parties to consider the principle of affordability, fiscal sustainability, equity and fairness,” she said, while warning counties against sacrificing development and service delivery to meet nurses' demands.
She said no county has the mandate to pay nurses using public funds.
She said when the nurses were signing a return-to-work agreement, the commission issued guidelines that were never adhered to by the parties.
“SRC was not part of the agreement. It was outside the parameters advised by the commission,” she said.
She said the majority of counties as well as the Ministry of Health had confirmed that they do not have money to pay the nurses.
The National Treasury has also confirmed that it cannot release the money to pay the nurses.