Doctors’ strike affecting patients in Kenya
Posted by African Press International on September 18, 2012
By MAURICE ALAL, reporting from Kisumu. Kenya
The ongoing nationwide strike by nurses and other medical staff has completely paralyzed operations in nearly all the government health facilities in the country.
According to Nyanza Regional Director of Medical Services Dr Ojwang’ Lusi, although the region was yet to record any deaths, there were fears that most patients could be losing their lives across the region and the country.
He said most of the patients kept off the health facilities from the first day of the strike fearing that they will not be attended to.
Dr Lusi said the situation was already worsening and amicable solution should be reached as soon as possible to stop the suffering that many patients were going through as a result of the strike action.
“It is my prayer that this who thing is ended. The protagonist needs to see sense and seek mechanism that will end the strike. It is unfortunate that people will likely lose their lives because of this action,” he said.
A spot check by the writer revealed that patients who were seeking services in most government facilities for example in Kisumu remained unattended.
Some of the patient’ relatives were forced to relocate to other hospitals in town, most of them private. However it was a tough choice for others who could not afford to pay for the services rendered in the private facilities.
At the Jaramogi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Kisumu, security guards allegedly stopped some relatives of patients admitted at the facility from being moved to other hospitals over claims that they had not cleared the hospital bills.
Most private hospitals in the city however recorded booming business as the number of patients streamed in to seek medical attention.
The strike that began on Wednesday has seen doctors also join their colleagues in other department like nurses, lab technicians and technologist, and other hospital staff to press for the payment of various allowances that inclusive of amongst others, strenuous allowances.
The strike follows the failure by the government to award salary increment needed by the health experts. The government through the Ministry of Medical services and that of Public Health and Sanitation appeared to disown the earlier agreements it entered into with officials of the striking health staff describing the organization that gave the strike notices as an illegal entity.
However the minister for Medical Services Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o said the strike was illegal and insisted that the striking nurses should go back to work immediately.
According to the minister, the government agreed to pay the allowances demanded beginning July this year appealing to the workers to wait until then, but so far that has not been honoured as per the doctors’ claims.
However, the top officials who represent the striking medical staff accused the government of short-changing them by sacking some of the nurses. At Homabay, Migori, Siaya and Bondo the district hospitals most nurses kept off their usual work places choosing instead to stay at home.
Only Centre for Disease Control and Kenya Medical Research Institute (CDC/KEMRI) personnel who have been conducting various research activities using Siaya district hospitals were on call assisting the desperate patients, some whom they could handle their medical needs.
It was the same at Kombewa district hospital where research scientists working with Waltereed Project became a god send to patients seeking treatment at the hospital which is adjacent to the Kombewa clinical research centre.
Amongst the worst hit by the strike were patients who had been scheduled to undergo various surgical operations this week. There is also apprehension amongst relatives of those who have a date with their surgeons for the coming week.
A resident from Rachuonyo North district, Daniel Owino who has a patient set to undergo a surgical operation on Wednesday next week at the Jaramogi Teaching and Referral hospital said he was wondering whether the procedure will be carried out now that the strike is on.
“I took my wife to the facility two weeks ago and the doctors who examined her asked me to avail her on Thursday for the operation for the operation but now it may not be done,” he said.
At the Jaramogi for instance, surgeries are normally conducted on Wednesday and Thursday of every week. During this period the doctors operate on up to even ten patients. In most facilities in Nyanza doctors were reportedly responding to emergence cases to save lives.
It was the same case at Kisumu District hospital where Dr AggreyAkula the hospital’s medical superintendent had to remain in the theatre for several hours doing operations.
Apart from their current demands to be paid various allowances by the government, striking hospital workers also want the ministry of medical services to employ more nurses and doctors to help cope with the huge demand of medical services.
However, six months ago, doctors downed their tools countrywide that saw a number of people loss their lives and leave operations in the government medical facilities paralyzed.