Nurses have vowed to continue with their job strike until their grievances are addressed, saying they will not be cowed by threats to sack them.
The Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) on Tuesday said its members will not be shaken by any threat from governors, adding that they will only resume duty once the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been signed.
“Why do they keep threatening us with sacking and employing other nurses?” Knun secretary-general Seth Panyako told the Nation on phone.
The health workers have been away from work since June 5, demanding payment of a Sh25,000 monthly allowance, Sh15,400 in risk compensation and Sh5,000 extraneous allowance, as well as Sh5,000 for responsibility.
They also want to be paid a Sh50,000 annual allowance for uniform.
The strike has mainly affected ordinary Kenyans.
On Tuesday, it emerged that a number of mothers and babies have died in the last three months in Kakamega County due to the absence of caregivers.
Knun’s Kakamega branch officials said six mothers and 123 babies had died at different hospitals in the county.
The secretary, Mr Renson Bulunya, said the situation at the county referral hospital and other health institutions in the region was getting worse.
County director of medical services Arthur Andere said the nurses should take the blame for the situation.
“What did they expect would happen after they abandoned patients? The doctors can do very little after diagnosing and treating patients when nurses are not there to provide care to the sick,” Dr Andere said.
However, he could not confirm the number of fatalities related to the strike.
“We have made efforts to engage with the nurses in an attempt to resolve the dispute but they have remained defiant,” Dr Andere said.
In a bid to end the strike that has paralysed services at public hospitals for long, governors have been using all means to woo nurses back to work.
The feasibility of hiring new staff remains questionable because Kenya faces an acute shortage of nurses, with only 33,000 of the caregivers in employment.
Mr Panyako said if they had continued with the constructive meetings they had with the governors, they would have gone back to work.
“I don’t think we are going to bow down to threats, having witnessed how the governors have treated us before. Only a signed CBA will make us get back to work,” he said.
Hundreds of striking nurses in Migori County defied the return-to-work order issued by Governor Okoth Obado on Monday.
The Migori County Referral Hospital, dispensaries and health centres remained deserted, with only a few clinical officers and doctors attending to patients at the institutions.
Governor Obado instructed the county public service board to advertise nurses’ positions to replace the ones on strike.
The Council of Governors last week wrote to the county bosses asking them to advertise positions held by nurses in their regions who did not report for duty by September 8 as instructed.
Reported by Angela Oketch, Elisha Otieno, B. Amadala
Health workers had been directed to resume duty by Friday or face the sack