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County halts admissions to hospital as nurses strike bites

Kakamega county government has suspended admissions to Kakamega County Referral Hospital due to the ongoing nurses’ strike that has crippled health services. In a media briefing yesterday, county Health executive Peninah Mukabane also announced the deployment of locum nurses and relocation of nurses from lower level hospitals to the referral facility to alleviate the situation.

The more than 1,300 health workers went on strike last week, protesting against poor working conditions, delayed promotions and poor pay. They have vowed not to return to work until their demands are met, with patients bearing the brunt of the impasse.

And yesterday, Mukabane warned that the county will sack all nurses who will not have reported back to work by tomorrow, saying the strike was illegal.

She said nurses will not be paid for days not worked. Mukabane said the Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) had been served with conservatory orders on the strike last week and failure to observe them would give the county leeway to recruit nurses to replace striking medics.

Although she said only four hospitals—Kakamega CGH, Malava, Navakholo and Lugari— are affected by the go-slow a spot check by People Daily indicate otherwise, with all level four hospitals, some dispensaries and health centres also being deserted.

Patients are now forced to seek medical care in neighbouring Vihiga, Busia and Bungoma counties. Governor Wycliffe Oparanya was yesterday expected to address the media on the strike yesterday, but he never showed up.

Last week area Senator Boni Khalwale and Knun secretary general Seth Panyako led a protest in support of the nurses in Kakamega town, but failed to get audience from either the governor or the Health executive.

The county government claims it had addressed the nurses’ grievances and blame political interference for the paralysis. “The county government began the resolution of nurses promotions at the end of July and plans to conclude the exercise before November,” said Mukabane.

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