National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich said funds have been factored in in a supplementary Budget to pay nurses from January to June as they wait for the doctors’ union to strike a deal.
The Council of Governors had raised concerns that there will be a crisis if funds to cater for a pay deal that will be arrived at after the ongoing negotiations are not budgeted for.
The council’s chairman Peter Munya said the county government had agreed with the national government that the money be set aside in this year’s Budget.
The national government will only pay for any salary increment given to doctors and nurses for six months, before leaving each level of government to take care of its medical staff.
“Treasury was to take that burden and deduct the money from allocations to the Ministry of Health. If not reflected in the county allocations, there will be a crisis,” Mr Munya said.
He said that though the salary review affects both levels of government, the county governments did not account for the salary adjustments in the current financial year, which ends in June.
“Health is a devolved function, but people don’t want to accept. Seventy per cent of medical workers fall under counties. The employees are for governors,” Mr Rotich said after a meeting with Senate’s finance committee in Nairobi.
He said that the funds would be disbursed immediately it is clear how much is meant for the devolved units.
“It is not that we are refusing to pay. The money is available but logistics is what is delaying the disbursements. Even if we delay, we shall pay in arrears,” Mr Rotich said.
The nurses ended their two-week strike in December after signing an agreement with county governments and the Ministry of Health.
Kenya Union of Nurses secretary-general Seth Panyako signed the deal on behalf of the health workers after governors agreed to recognise their collective bargaining agreement.
Mr Rotich said the devolved units must be appreciating that because health is a devolved function, they had a role to manage the health personnel at the devolved units.
Governors have been downplaying the magnitude of the strike, saying the situation is not as serious as it is being portrayed because some doctors are working besides the clinical officers and nurses.
The doctors had raised concerns that frequent social media attacks on the doctors orchestrated by State House Director of Digital Communications Dennis Itumbi were hurting the talks.
Lawmakers have challenged President Uhuru Kenyatta to proactively deal with the matter instead of “allowing” senior officials at State House to make statements likely to compromise the progress made.
“He must step forward and crack the whip to end this stalemate. Majority of Kenyans have no medical cover and the faith based hospitals operate just like the private ones,” Nyamira Senator Kennedy Mong’are said.
Mr Mong’are said both parties in the negotiating table should approach the matter with an open mind as opposed to relying on instructions from their bosses.
“We have information the ministry officials are approaching the negotiating table with firm instructions from State House, on the direction the talks should take,” Mr Mong’are, who has declared interest in the Presidency said.
The doctors had complained that the governors have been frustrating doctors from outside their counties when hiring and approving their requests for further studies.
The Law Society of Kenya and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights are spearheading the court-initiated mediation process.