Referral hospital nurses insist on strike despite 'fruitful' talks

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Nurses under the Health ministry during a protest at Uhuru Park in Nairobi on February 11, 2019, when they announced that they had joined the nationwide strike. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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Nurses working at four referral hospitals in Nairobi have insisted that they will not return to work until their demands are met.

Their decision came after the Health ministry invited union officials and other parties to a meeting at the NSSF headquarters in Nairobi.

The 300 striking nurses are stationed at the Mathari Mental Hospital, the National Spinal Injury Referral Hospital, the national blood bank and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s port health department.

The medical workers, who belong to the Kenya National Union of Nurses, are employees of the national government, which manages Level 6 or referral hospitals in the country.

CRISIS

The nurses’ action has paralysed services at three facilities.

Operations at the Kenyatta National Hospital, the country’s largest referral facility, are however unaffected since its nurses belong to the Kenyan Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospital and Allied Workers (Kudheiha).

The branch decision came in the wake of a closed-door meeting of ministry representatives led by Principal Secretary Peter Tum, officials from the human resource department and union officials.

The meeting took place on Monday afternoon and was aimed at resolving the crisis caused by the strike.

PROGRESS

Branch secretary Maurine Nzioka said the meeting’s proceedings had been “fruitful” and “shown signs of good progress”, but insisted that nurses would remain on strike until their demands were met.

She noted that the government assured them it would sign a commitment letter promising to pay their outstanding uniform and nursing service allowance by 2 pm Tuesday.

“We will not go back to work until we receive the written commitment from the national government to implement the return-to-work agreement signed on November 2, 2017,”  the union official said.

PROTEST

Allied to Knun’s city branch of nurses employed by the ministry, the nurses joined the nationwide strike that began in 24 counties last week.

Carrying placards and chanting slogans, they staged a peaceful demonstration in the central business district to protest the ministry’s failure to implement the deal it signed with Knun and the Council of Governors on November 2, 2017.

Speaking to the Nation, Ms Nzioka said the branch was dissatisfied by the non-payment of their allowances as stipulated in the agreement.

“We are yet to receive the nursing service allowance of Sh3,000 per month and the uniform allowance of Sh5,000 per year as indicated in the agreement,” she said.

PROMOTIONS

Ms Nzioka said the ministry had also failed to promote nurses since 2009 and that all city members had remained stuck in their job groups.

“We are also puzzled by the failure of our employer to promote any of our members since 2009. This is not fair to the nurses, who have stagnated in the same cadres for a decade,” she said.

On Thursday, the nurse’s counterparts employed by the Nairobi government suspended their strike after the county agreed to pay the allowances.

“The allowances were paid and we are currently on duty as the county government organises for our promotions on merit,” said Knun’s Nairobi branch secretary Ediah Muruli.

The CoG and Knun have been embroiled in a war of words with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) over the collective bargaining agreement, with the commission terming the allowances granted to nurses as illegal.

A number of counties have however paid the nurses, sparing patients the agony of lack of services.





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