Kenya government fires health worker strikers over failure to 'report back to work'

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Kenyan government has dismissed 25,000 striking health workers, mostly nurses, citing failure to heed government orders to recommence work and concern for the welfare of hospital patients. Speaking on behalf of the government, Alfred Mutua stated the workers were dismissed "illegally striking" and "[defying] the directive ... to report back to work", which he called "unethical". The government asks that "[a]ll qualified health professionals, who are unemployed and/or retired have been advised to report to their nearest health facility for interviews and deployment", Mutua stated.

The workers, who had been on strike for four days, were wishing to have improvements made to their wages, working conditions, and allowances. The strikes have caused a significant number of Kenyan hospitals to cease operations. According to Kenya Health Professionals Society spokesperson Alex Orina, the average monthly wage plus allowances for health workers in Kenya is KSh25,000 (£193, US$302 or 230) approximately. With an increasing number of reports of patients neglected in hospitals emerging, two trade unions met with the Kenyan government yesterday and negotitated a return to work, although a significant proportion of demonstrators defied the agreement, The Guardian reported.

Orina told Reuters the dismissals were "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". Frederick Omiah, a member of the same society, believed the government's actions would "make an already delicate and volatile situation worse", expressing concern that demonstrations may continue in the capital Nairobi, amongst other locations. Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union chairperson Dr. Victor Ng'ani described government actions as "reckless".

Mutua said the health workers were "no longer employees of the government" and had been eliminated from the payroll. While Ng'ani told the BBC of difficulties with finding other workers as skilled and experienced, Mutua reportedly stated that this would not be an issue. "We have over 100,000 to 200,000 health professionals looking for work today," Mutua commented. "There will be a lag of a day or two ... but it is better than letting people die on the floor, at the gate, or suffer in pain".


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