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Nationwide Health Workers Strike Continues in Kenya

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Douglas Mpuga

A health workers strike continues in Kenya for the fourth consecutive day.  Operations at public hospitals countrywide are reportedly paralyzed as health workers push for better terms.

Patients continued to be unattended at public hospitals apart from Kenyatta national hospital – whose health professionals are under a different union.

Members of the Kenya Health Professionals Society vowed to continue with their strike and peaceful picketing until the government improved their terms and conditions of service.

They also made a fresh demand that assistant Medical Services Minister Kazungu Kambi apologize to them for what they described as "abusive and derogatory" language used in reference to the striking workers.

The [Kenya] government has described the strike as illegal and said the government cannot afford a pay rise.

Now civil servants have threatened to join the health workers strike if government doesn’t resolve the dispute by Monday.

“There is … paralysis in the entire government [health] services across the country,” said David Ohito, regional news editor at the Standard newspaper.

The government insists that there is no budgetary allocation for this item, he said, “the country is kind of broke. We see no respite in the near future.”

“We have accident victims who cannot be attended to. The situation is really bad,” said Ohito.

He cited an accident in Bungoma, western Kenya, where primary school children were involved in a motor accident. Eleven died but about 40 were badly injured, taken to a public hospital where they got no attention and some bled to death.

By week end, the government seemed unmoved by the suffering of thousands of patients in public hospitals all over the country who were now depending on their relatives to assist them.

It is not known how many people have died since the strike started as even accident and emergency services were not available.

Declaring the strike illegal doesn’t seem to be helpful, said Ohito, “It is time for them [government] to agree how the [health] workers get paid better as a way to make them work dedicatedly.”

Without that, he added, “we are going to see a lot of crisis in hospitals. They may just grind to a halt and snowball into a national health crisis.  

Health workers join the national broadcaster - Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) - workers that have been on strike since Wednesday when they vowed to remain out of their work stations to protest failure by the government to implement their 500 percent pay increase deal.

KBC workers demonstrated on the streets of Nairobi on Sunday seeking audience with Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Broadcast operations remained paralyzed at the State broadcaster, with the TV station and Radio not airing news bulletins.

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