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KNH nurses threaten to join doctors’ strike

Anthony Mwangi, Bernard Gitau and Robin Obino @PeopleDailyKe

Controversy surrounding Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) escalated yesterday as nurses threatened to join registrar doctors (doctoral interns) and consultants in a strike in solidarity with their suspended colleagues.

The new twist unfolded even as the hospital’s board appointed an audit firm to undertake thorough investigations into several thorny issues ailing the national referral facility. And at least 35 legislators, from Rift Valley and northern Kenya, initiated an onslaught against Health Cabinet secretary Sicily Kariuki, blaming her for issues facing two personnel from their respective regions.

Parliamentarians from Rift Valley and North Eastern held separate press conferences in Mombasa where they said they were gathering signatures in Parliament to remove Kariuki from office.

In a push that reeked of regional interests, the MPs from the North Rift were irked by the suspension of KNH CEO Lily Koros while the northern Kenya team claimed Dr Wako Dulacha should have been hired as managing director for the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (Kemsa), whose interviews have been re-advertised.

The nurses temporarily boycotted work yesterday throwing into disarray activities at the biggest medical facility in East and Central Africa, before they went into a closed door meeting with the management.

They later gave the management an ultimatum to reinstate their suspended colleagues by close of business today, failure to which they threatened to down their tools. The Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) Secretary General Seth Panyako said the nurses would take industrial action due to alleged mistreatment by the administration after a patient mix-up in a brain surgery case last week. “All the nurses at the hospital will not resume duty until all our grievances are met.

Nurses are being mistreated after the mix-up which is not acceptable,” said Panyako. The nurses said the error could have resulted from obsolete equipment and under-staffing. “We must be honest with Kenyans and the public that under-staffing at KNH is a real challenge that must be addressed during this debate. The government should also address the issue of equipment,” said one of the medics.

“Registrar doctors offer 85 per cent of work that is done at KNH. Some of them are self-sponsored, and yet are not paid a single cent. A few of them are government sponsored. The government should at least give KNH some cash so that the students are given a small stipend,” said one of the registrar doctors. He pointed out that since over 1,000 medical staffs withdrew their services, they have been left with a skeleton staff of only 15 per cent.

It was also a day that the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli urged striking health and university workers to suspend their industrial action and engage the Ministry of Labour and the President for an amicable solution.

According to Atwoli, the current stalemate in the health and education sectors can come to an end if the Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani and President Uhuru Kenyatta personally mediated in talks between the two workers unions and their employer.

Terming the strikes unnecessary, Atwoli insisted this will be the fastest way to address the issues raised by intern doctors and the lecturers. In a statement, the hospital’s Board of Management stated it takes “any allegations of negligence seriously and mandated the audit firm to give an independent and authoritative position on the matter and together with a comprehensive report.”

According to the Corporate Affairs and Communications Manager Simon Ithai, the Committee of the Board has also commenced its work to review the institutional processes that may have contributed to the mix up and institute structural changes where necessary.

And in Mombasa, a section of MPs from Rift Valley said they had started the process of collecting signatures force Kariuki out following her decision to send Koros on compulsory leave.

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