There is a looming nurses strike in Nakuru after the County Government failed to pay salaries for the last three months.
The more than 1,200 nurses have not received salaries for the months of August, September and October. The county government has been promising to make a lump sum payment.
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The employees under the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) were among health workers who went on a prolonged strike that paralyzed services in health facilities across the country for almost 5 months.
County governments had withheld the salaries as the nurses agitated for the signing of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Their grievances this time according to KNUN Nakuru branch secretary general Syprene Odera are founded on the fact that the county only paid nurses salaries for the month of November.
“Nurses are demanding salaries for the three months to enable them to continue providing services at their respective workplace,” said Ms Odera.
Odera observed that other counties had paid their nurses their dues as agreed, but their employer had not done so nor clarified what the challenges are.
The union official said she wrote two letters to the county government demanding pay. The latest letter was written on December 5th but there is no response yet.
“The county has not responded to our demand for payment of all our salaries and unfortunately, our letters have been ignored,” she said.
Ms Odera accused county leadership saying the delay to remit salaries has been an ongoing trend since the start of the devolved system adding that employees have in the past been forced to withhold services for an action to be taken.
She added “Some nurses are forced to walk to work while others have received eviction notices for non-payment of rent. This is unacceptable. No good reason has been given for the delayed payments.”
Nurses strike will add to the ongoing challenges in service delivery in the county.
There were highlights of goodwill when a health task force was formed to look into the challenges that inhibit delivery of quality healthcare in the country.
The subsequent report by the health task force led by Prof James Tuitoek stated that there is a shortage of personnel in all facilities in Nakuru county.
The report acknowledged that some of the health workers put in long hours without pay, an issue that affects their work.
Most affected are facilities in rural areas where a single nurse discharges various duties, for instance, diagnose patients, keep records and treat patients.
However, Governor Lee Kinyanjui has vowed not to pay the nurses maintaining they did not deliver health services for a period of the three months they were on strike.
Kinyanjui said the employees were requested to report back to work to save lives of those who were stranded in public health facilities, but instead, they opted to listen to their national union officials.
He termed the nurses strike illegal lamenting that they ignored a call by the Council of Governors, they did not, only to demand pay for work they did not deliver.
“I am yet to understand why someone should be paid for not working, are we rewarding people for going on strike? What happens to those who lost their loves ones?” posed the Governor.
Kinyanjui however said he will have a meeting with the employees on Monday to find way forward on the issue.
The fourth and back between the nurses and the county government will yet again, leave those who need their services most vulnerable yet again.