Entering its third day, the strike is due to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) not being signed in its due time. This would delay the implementation of a 12.5% salary increment for the nurses as outlined in the agreement.
The nurses however are not acting out of sorts. “The strike is legal. We had an agreement signed with them and a return-to-work formula signed on 14 December.”
“And we agreed if the CBA is not negotiated and signed on 2 March, the nurses would proceed with the strike,” said Maurice Opetu, acting secretary general of the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN).
High costs the reason why
An earlier strike for better pay and job promotions initiated in December, which had coincided with the doctors’ strike lasted for 100 days and only ended due to a return-to-work agreement. The nurses’ return-to-work agreement provided that the 47 county governments would sign recognition agreements and subsequently sign the CBA with KNUN within 50 days.
The only reason the CBA has yet to be signed by the Council of Governors (CoG) is because if implemented, will cost taxpayers USD388 million every year. CoG will go ahead and sign the CBA only if the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) agrees to the additional budget.
Patients turned away
The nurses are ready to go back to work, but not until the CBA is signed and their dues are met. Kenya has more than 54,000 practicing nurses, making up more than half the health workforce. Roughly 45,000 nurses are registered with KNUN. Due to their sheer number, their public healthcare is suffering.
In Mombasa County’s Coast General Hospital, the strike had already led to six patient deaths; three deaths in the emergency department and three other deaths in the wards.
Meanwhile, new patients seeking care have been turned away and asked to seek private care as only doctors are taking care of patients and they are only focusing on very critical cases. Operations in the maternity wing where it is predominantly run by nurses have also been grounded.
The strike continues to be a headache for the government, in light of the upcoming elections in August. MIMS
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