Nurses have rejected plans by the national and county governments to hire them on contract, for reasons including loss of benefits and the effects the policy will have on Universal Health Coverage.
Employment terms and working conditions dominated the National Nurses Week in Homa Bay town, with their unions protesting against the new policy by the Council of Governors (CoG).
The National Nurses Association of Kenya (NNAK), Kenya Progressive Nurses Association (KPNA) and the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) told the CoG to suspend any plans for contract employment.
They want the governments to stick to the permanent and pensionable basis of employment.
During the 7th National and County Government Coordinating Summit at Sagana State Lodge on March 4, it was agreed that vacancies as a result of natural attrition would be filled on contract basis.
This would be the case at both levels of government under a policy to be developed by the Public Service Commission.
The PSC was asked to develop a Standardized Contract Framework for engaging the health workers on the terms and conditions of the new arrangement.
The decision followed numerous strikes so the summit noted the need for lasting solutions as patients pay highly for treatment at private facilities.
In January, nurses went on strike to demand the implementation of a collective bargaining agreement signed in November 2018.
Treasury and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, however, ruled out salary increments as they were ordered to return to work.
On Friday, the unions told the government that the universal health coverage plan would suffer if the welfare of nurses was not prioritised.
NNAK chairman Alfred Obengo further argued that contract employment would 'kill' the profession and added that nurses would lose some benefits under the policy.
“Those employed on contract are likely to be denied loans by banks and other financial institutions. Nobody would [enjoy being in] that situation,” he said.
KPNA chairman Michael Nyongesa warned that the plan would result in discrimination yet all public servants should be accorded the same treatment.
KNUN’s Stephen Ruteere said nurses would feel cheated if employed on contract.
“Nurses play a vital role in heath sector. They are the pivot points in the realisation of universal health coverage,” he said.
Rachel Shebesh, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Public Service ministry, asked the medical workers to hold talks with the government before resorting to industrial action when they feel aggrieved..
“Nurses should prioritise dialogue as the first step of solving their grievances,” said Ms Shebesh, who presided over the event.
Regarding the concern about discrimination, she said, “The government strives to ensure everyone is treated equally. We will continue with the same system for enhanced service delivery."
Homa Bay Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata said nurses were open for talks with the government on employment matters.
He added: “The governor (Cyprian Awiti) and I are committed to according nurses support because they play an important role in the health sector. We want them to serve the public in a better way."
The county earlier advertised 140 positions for medical workers to be employed on contract.