Kenya:Health chiefs in crisis meeting over nurses' pay

  1. news
    saturday, march 23, 2002
    health chiefs in crisis meeting over nurses' pay
    by mike mwaniki

    top health bosses were yesterday summoned to nairobi to find ways of resolving a dispute with nurses.

    the nurses plan to go on strike on april 2.

    the officials, who included provincial and district bosses and superintendents, were holed up in a six-hour, closed-door meeting chaired by health permanent secretary prof julius meme at afya house, nairobi.

    sources told the nation that they resolved to ensure services at public hospitals would not be "disrupted whether the nurses went on strike or not".

    they accused officials of the unregistered kenya professional nurses association (kpna), the successor of the defunct kenya enrolled nurses association (kena), of inciting its members to go on strike. out of the 16,000 nurses in the public sector, about 12,000 belonged to kena and the rest to the national nurses association of kenya (nnak), whose top leadership is split over the strike.

    nurses and other health personnel have vowed to down their tools over poor pay.

    kpna officials, led by national chairman james muiruri, released a statement in which they detailed their "strike strategy".

    the statement urged members to contribute sh500 each to enable the organisation's national steering committee to "sustain the strike".

    the statement added: "the money collected will also be utilised in meeting the officials' travelling and accommodation expenses, publicity, paying for meeting venues, subsistence and registration fee of the union".

    meanwhile, the nnak chairman, mr donald epalat, has written to the police claiming his life was in danger.

    in a letter dated march 20, mr epalat claimed that his life was in danger because of his stand on the strike.

    on wednesday, nyanza medical boss ambrose misore said a new nurses' scheme of service may be released next week to avert the strike.

    however, dr misore did not disclose the nature of negotiations going on or how much the pay increase would be.

    a top ministry official said though consultations were going on, "there was no time-frame" as to when salaries and allowances would be increased.

    speaking by telephone, the official said: "harmonisation of terms of service for public servants is an ongoing process and involves various arms of government. it is, therefore, erroneous to give a time-frame when salary increases will be implemented."

    as the official hinted at better things for paramedics, officials of the umbrella body of 12 health workers' associations said they would tour the country to drum up support for the strike.

    led by mr laban onono and mr james muiruri, they said: "the government has left us no option but to strike."

    they accused top ministry officials of "focusing on doctors and ignoring nurses and other paramedics" whoprovide more than 80 per cent of health care in public hospitals.

    nurses have given a strike notice over what they say are poor pay and allowances. they accuse the government of leaving them out in the recent pay rise given to doctors.

    at the same time, the secretary-general of the national nurses association of kenya, mr jophinus musundi, said the strike was still on despite claims that it had been called off. he differed with his chairman, mr epalat, who had cancelled the strike.
    copyright 2002, nation media group ltd. all rights reserved.

    tuesday, march 26, 2002

    listen to what nurses want
    there is a good chance that nurses in most parts of the republic will call the bluff on the government's bluster about their mass sacking should they strike on april 2. but there is a good chance it may not be bluffing after all, judging from the way it dealt with the university lecturers' strike of 1993, the doctors' strike the following year, and the teachers' strike of 1998. all three fizzled out when the government refused to budge.
    nevertheless, it would be a grave, perhaps deadly, mistake should the government adopt similar tactics with the nurses, who are the backbone of our health-care delivery system.

    it is a fact that nurses and paramedical staff are the only available health-care providers in many parts of the country, and without them, most health centres, dispensaries, clinics and public hospitals would close, with grievous consequences.

    that is why it does not make much sense for medical services minister maalim mohammed to threaten nurses with mass sacking when all they want is an improved pay package, which is essentially their right under labour laws.

    it has been three weeks since nurses gave notice of work stoppage unless they too received a similar salary review as did doctors in government service earlier this year. time enough for government to have done some soul-searching.

    and it cannot be lost on the nurses that the people making threats of dire consequences should they strike are the same ones who recently awarded themselves a hefty payrise. they can also recall that just the other day, senior officials in the judiciary received an equally hefty payrise.

    while we concede that mps and judges may have deserved such payrises, it beats reason for government ministers to resort to strong-arm tactics whenever lower-cadre employees like teachers and nurses seek a better deal.

    it cannot escape notice that ministers and senior civil servants rarely come across nurses in rural health centres and government hospitals. they usually depend on private doctors, private hospitals, and nurses who are more than adequately remunerated in those facilities.

    surely, there must be a better way of handling labour relations instead of telling people with genuine grievances that they will be replaced by the jobless!
    tuesday, march 26, 2002

    nurses must go on strike
    nurses play an important role in the nation's health-care system. without them, health institutions - public or private - would not function.
    however, not many people seem to appreciate the vital role nurses play in health-care delivery. it is ridiculous for the nyanza provincial medical officer of health to plead with nurses countrywide not to down tools on april 4.

    his claim that there are good things coming for those underpaid is just another tactic to stop them from going on strike.

    for decades, despite their myriad of problems, nurses have remained committed to their patients. they work round-the-clock and mostly in poor environments, risking their lives for a pittance. their pleas for better terms have often fallen on deaf ears at afya house.

    from the indian ocean to lake victoria, from mandera to kapenguria and from moyale to trans-mara, nurses shoulder the burden of providing health services, mostly to the poor.

    the afya house officials must learn to discharge their duties with responsibility and care. they must not subject nurses to misery. when the nurses demand a scheme of service, better pay, promotions, transfers, allowances and better working conditions, someone should respond.

    isn't it ironic that our government continues to reward criminals and ignore the contributions of its hard-working staff? the various task forces dealing with nurses' remunerations have failed to deliver, which is why it makes a lot of sense for nurses to strike until all their grievances are addressed.

    right from dispensaries in the remotest parts to nairobi's giant kenyatta hospital, nurses are the health-care system's backbone. yet promotions are hard to come by. in fact, nurses are forced to leave their stations and flock to afya house to follow up issues, such as failure to pay salaries and allowances and transfers. at times they are held up in nairobi for several days or even weeks because their personal files go missing.

    simply put, nothing works at afya house. yet personnel officials get salaries for work not done.

    since all diplomatic avenues have been exhausted, a strike has become imperative. it should also allow some cleansing at headquarters.

    dismayed nurse,
    kisii district hospital.
    nurses play an important role in the nation's health-care system. without them, health institutions - public or private - would not function. however, not many people seem to appreciate the vital role nurses play in health-care delivery.
    universal theme around the world, even kenya
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