Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kenya's nurses strike

Kenya's public hospitals face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government fired 25,000 striking nurses.

Luke K'Odambo, chairman of the National Nurses Association of Kenya, said that the sacking did "not make sense in any way", and that it was not possible to dismiss such a large part of the workforce.

"We are ignoring the sacking threat."
Alex Orina, spokesman of the 40,000-strong Kenya Health Professionals Society, said. "These are cat-and-mouse games, you cannot sack an entire workforce. It is a ploy to get us to rush back to work, but our strike continues until our demands are met," .

The nurses went on strike on March 1 to protest the government's failure to implement a salary increase agreed last year, when they also stopped work to press for improved services in Kenya's mostly ill-equipped public hospitals. On average, a health worker earns about 25,000 shillings ($300) a month in salary and allowances, and this amount was likely to double if their demand for higher allowances were met. Private hospitals and clinics, where richer families send their sick, have opened as usual because their nurses are not members of the strikers' union. In public hospitals patients pay as little as one and a half dollars for most outpatient services. This is incomparable to established private health facilities where patients pay up to over 120 dollars for outpatient services.

The industrial action comes barely two months after government doctors in Kenya went on strike for a rise in salary

"Nyongo, we want our rights, like you had medical treatment abroad," the protesters chanted in Swahili, in reference to a stay in the United States last year when the minister was treated for prostate cancer.

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