Operations in public hospitals were paralysed as nurses downed tools to press for the implementation of their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
And as the crisis left thousands of patients unattended to, both the National and County governments pointed an accusing finger at the Salaries and Remuneration Commission for the delay in concluding the CBA.
One person is reported to have died at Samburu Teaching and Referral Hospital after he was turned away by striking nurses when he sought medication. At the same hospital, six mothers were forced to take away their premature babies while in Mombasa, patients were ejected from the Coast General Hospital by the striking nurses.
Council of Governors chairman Josephat Nanok called for patience as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission finalises on the CBA, saying the negotiating parties have concluded a draft document.
According to Nanok, SRC is expected to issue a “no objection” letter in relation to the content of the draft CBA. “Once SRC makes a pronouncement on the matter, county governments will go ahead and sign the CBA with the nurses’ union,” he said.
Speaking during a joint briefing of the National and County governments, the Turkana governor reiterated that both levels of government were committed to ensuring improved working conditions for all health workers.
“The governments are following due process to ensure the CBA is signed and have no legal challenges in the registration,” he said. The promise came even as Kenya National Union of Nurses accused governors of failing to honour the 2013 CBA which was renegotiated last December, ending a nationwide strike.
The agreement stipulated that the CBA was to be signed by the two parties on June 2. Nanok indicated that the draft CBA proposes Sh40.3 billion over and above what was approved in the return-to-work formula or Sh3.5 billion for every fiscal year. “The negotiations have been carried in good faith.
All parties have been in constant discussions to finalise the nurses’ CBA as agreed last year in a return-to-work formula,” he said. If adopted by SRC, Nanok said the amount would require huge adjustment of budgets for both levels of government to cater for it.
Most public health facilities in Nairobi experienced a slow start as nurses heeded the union call to down their tools to demand the signing and registration in court of a renegotiated CBA.
A spot check by People Daily established that Pumwani Maternity Hospital trainee nurses were the only ones attending to patients who had started streaming into the hospital as at 11am.
A guard who sought anonymity said most of the nurses, who had arrived for morning shift, left as soon as they arrived. The same scenario was witnessed at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital where registry personnel were in a dilemma on how to handle hundreds of patients.
In Bungoma, county branch secretary George Musindi led a massive boycott and told nurses to ensure no patient was admitted. Most patients were turned away and sought attention at private and mission hospitals while those who could not afford the cost at the alternative hospitals were forced to go back home.
The situation was, however, tragic in Samburu County as one patient succumbed to an illness after being turned away from the county referral hospital.
In the same facility, six mothers were forced to withdraw their premature babies from the nurseries. In Mombasa County, over 300 nurses at the Coast Provincial General hospital led by Knun secretary general Mombasa branch Peter Maroko said the strike had officially kicked off in the entire Coast region.
“We wish to inform Kenyans that we have already joined the rest of the nurses in the country and we call upon patients seeking treatment at various public hospitals to seek alternative means till the earlier collective bargaining agreement is implemented,” said Maroko.
Lawrence Changawa, who was hospitalised two weeks ago after he was hit by a motorcycle and suffered broken ribs, said: “Today l was told to call a relative to pick me from the hospital.
On enquiring why I was told there is no one to look after me since all nurses had begun their strike. I do not know where (else) to go. I am going home to wait until services resume so that I can complete my treatment.”
Mombasa county Health Executive Omar Binti, said though the county government was not in a position to resolve the strike, it would ensure all patients were taken care of by coordinating and working with doctors on duty to ensure smooth operations at all public hospitals.