Patients’ agony as nurses strike bites

A woman made a punishing 50-kilometre journey to hospital to deliver her fourth child as the nurses’ strike entered its fourth day on Thursday.

Ms Gladys Wairimu, who had been booked for Caesarean section at an Ol Kalou hospital hiked a lift on a matatu to Naivasha Hospital when nurses refused to attend to her.

Luckily, nurses in Naivasha heard her cries and agreed to attend to her, leading to the surgery.

“I requested some of the striking nurses to attend to the woman. Fortunately, they agreed,” Naivasha Sub-County Hospital medical superintendent Joseph Mburu said.

“Her life was at risk but the operation was successful and she is recuperating.”

Services in most public hospitals remained paralysed across the country on Thursday even as talks between the government and Kenya National Union of Nurses failed to take off after Labour Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie failed to turn up.

The union’s officials arrived at the Labour ministry’s headquarters at 11am but walked away an hour later when they were told that he minister was in another meeting with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission over the collective bargaining agreement between Knun and the Council of Governors.

WITH MINISTER

The union had insisted on discussing the deal with the minister and not the trade dispute lodged by the governor’s council.

Acting Knun chairman Joseph Ngwasi told the Nation: “We are ready to end the strike but the government is delaying. Let the government call us when it is ready.”

The union’s deputy secretary general Maurice Opetu said the delays were affecting members of the negotiating team, “some of whom travelled from other counties to Nairobi” to solve the impasse that has seen more than 27,000 nurses remain at home.

At Naivasha Hospital, three critically ill patients who had been admitted on Monday and Tuesday died on Wednesday.

“Despite efforts by the staff present, the patients died,” Dr Mburu said.

Angry patients admitted to Nakuru Level Five Hospital left, citing lack of services.

The more than 20 men limped out of Ward 10 while those on wheelchairs made their way past helpless security guards at the gate.

In Nyandarua, patients turned to private hospitals for treatment.

Most private hospitals in Nyahururu Town were jammed with patients transferred from public hospitals.

In Samburu, critical cases were referred to Wamba Mission Hospital in Samburu East while those seeking maternity services were transferred to Catholic Mission Hospital in Maralal Town.

The situation was the same in most public hospitals in western Kenya.

THE STREETS

In Kisii, nurses took to the streets to push for the implementation of the CBA by the devolved unit.

The few doctors and clinicians on duty at the referral hospital said they were overwhelmed by the big number of patients.

“We still have a large number of patients. We cannot attend to them all because nurses, are on strike,” said a doctor at the hospital who sought anonymity.

Kisii Knun secretary Richard Riang’a accused Council of Governors chairman Josphat Nanok of being insensitive to their plight.

Kakamega Referral Hospital medical superintendent John Atoko said the institution had reduced the number of services being offered. 

Mr Atoko said the available doctors, nurses on probation and clinical officers were only handling emergency cases.

 “The few nurses around have been deployed to the maternity and children wing. We don’t want to put the lives of patients, especially expectant women, at risk,” he said.

Wards in the region’s hospitals had empty beds. 

Meanwhile, long queues were registered at Mukumu, Nala mission and other private hospitals.

Operations at the Coast Provincial General Hospital in Mombasa remained grounded.

Most wards remained closed as families took their sick members home while others sought alternative treatment in private hospitals.

UNIT FUNCTIONAL

The Newborn Unit at the hospital remained functional. It had about 30 babies. An equal number was discharged when the strike began.

At least six people have died at the hospital.

Operations went on uninterrupted at Nyeri Teaching and Referral Hospital which recently transferred about 150 nurses to other hospitals and hired 65 others.

The referral hospital has received patients from Murang’a, Laikipia and other neighbouring counties.

At Karatina Level Four Hospital, only 47 patients were left in the female and male wards. There were seven women in the maternity wing on Thursday.

Hospital matron Virginia Mwatha said only the recently hired nurses were attending to the remaining patients.

“Thirteen nurses are working but we have stopped any admissions,” she said.

In Nairobi, Governor Evans Kidero said the county government would dismiss striking nurses.

Mr Kidero said the strike was illegal.

“I am still waiting for an audit report about those who are working and those that have boycotted work,” he said.

The Council of Governors has also declared the strike illegal and accused nurses of acting outside recognised industrial relations laws.

Mr Nanok said the union only had individual recognition deals with counties but had not registered a dispute with the council or given a strike notice.

“It did not follow procedures. There is no CBA with the council,” Mr Nanok said.

Report by Magati Obebo, Nyaboga Kiage, Geoffrey Rono, Judy Mito, Samwel Owino, Eunice Kilionzo, Macharia Mwangi, Reitz Mureithi, Steve Njuguna, Godfrey Oundo and Irene Mugo.

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