It is 9am on Wednesday. The parking lot at Kenyatta National Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Centre is full of activities not related to saving lives.
Music from speakers reverberates across the lot that is filled with striking workers.
Some tap their feet to the beat as others move to the centre and dance their frustrations out. The rest watch and cheer.
Ambulances are nowhere in sight. The situation is different at centre A and E.
Stretchers that are often seen at the unit are missing. Kenyans have chosen not to bring sick relatives to KNH due to the job boycott, now in its third day.
A few patients are in the wards. Some doctors are doing rounds, with few admission of patients.
Mr Adan Hassan, who brought his mother Zahra Ali here at 3am on Sunday, hoped to walk her out upon discharge on Tuesday.
That was not the case because the hospital called to inform him of her death.
Mr Hassan told the Nation that his mother may have not died had the health workers not gone on strike.
“The work boycott had not begun when we arrived. My mother was treated differently before and after the strike,” he said.
He added that settling the medical bill and having his mother’s body released from the hospital also proved difficult.
Health workers in more than 10 counties are on strike. For families, it is desperation, tears and death.
Mombasa residents are seeking health care services from other counties as the doctors’ strike enters its third day Thursday.
There was little activity at Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital, with patients being asked to move to private institutions.
“I am aware they are attending to absolute emergencies only, especially those patients already admitted, those in ICU and situations of critical surgery,” Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) Coast Secretary General Abidan Mwachi said.
He added families in Mombasa have been taking their sick relatives to hospitals in Kilifi and Kwale counties.
“Our aim is to save lives and not settling political scores,” Dr Mwachi said.
Boycott to continue
He added that until the Mombasa County government gets its priorities right, the boycott would continue.
County Health executive Hazel Koitaba and Medical Services chief officer Khadijah Shikely could not be reached for comment.
A similar crisis looms in western Kenya after nurses and doctors issued strike notices to demand better pay, allowances and improved working conditions.
KMPDU has already issued a strike notice in Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Turkana counties.
KMPDU North Rift secretary general Ismael Aiyabei said its members are demanding the implementation of the 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
“Our colleagues in Trans Nzoia have begun the work boycott. It will be the same case in the other counties next month. The CBA has never been implemented and working conditions are terrible,” Dr Aiyabei said.
The other grievances include salary delays, non-remittance of third-party deductions and delayed promotions.
“County governments have failed to release doctors who want to go for more training. Staffing is another challenge. The doctor-patient ratio is astronomical. We have raised these issues countless times to no avail,” Dr Aiyabei said.
Trans Nzoia health workers accused their employer of not addressing their grievances.
“There are complaints on promotion and remittances to the National Hospital Insurance Fund. Our salaries keep delaying,” Dr Moses Okumu, a KMPDU member, said at Kitale Referral Hospital on Tuesday.
His colleagues complained of stagnating in one job group for up to 12 years.
Trans Nzoia County Government Workers Union chairman Samuel Kiboi told Governor Patrick Khaemba to institute radical changes in the health department.
In Uasin Gishu, health workers have threatened to file a case next week over poor working conditions.
They vowed to institute legal action against the devolved government if it does not address their demands for promotion, better working conditions and allowances.
“Even with our dedication and humility for all these years, we have not been confirmed. Strangely, some new employees are mysteriously promoted,” workers spokesperson Margaret Shanigiru said.
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Seven-day strike notice
Nurses in Bungoma have issued a seven-day notice to the county administration to improve working conditions, failure to which they will go on strike.
Local nurses union chairman Anyangu Kangu decried delays in payment of allowance released by national government.
The Baringo county government reached an agreement with the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers and the Kenya National Union of Nurses, paving the way for health workers to resume duty a week ago.
The health workers had complained of not being promoted and confirmed.
They said their grievances had led to many resignations.
The workers from more than 17 cadres – including nurses, pharmacists, clinical officers and dentists – also complained of lack of enough personal protective gear in major hospitals, putting them at risk of contracting coronavirus.
By Nasibo Kabale, Irene Mugo, Wachira Mwangi, Edith Chepngeno, Barnabas Bii, Dennis Lubanga, Brian Ojamaa and Flora Koech.