Even with all the pain and suffering at the public hospitals, nurses insist that county governments must sign a return-to-work agreement to end the three-week strike with Kenya National Union of Nurses Secretary-General Seth Panyako saying that the law must be applied rationally and equitably as he compared his defiance to court orders to that of the government on the deportation of Miguna Miguna.
” We cannot selectively apply the rule of law. As a union, we respect the law. We will respect all court orders. So far, we have not been served ,” he said in a Citizen TV interview with Hussein Mohammed.
“If it means I will have to go to jail for 50 years for nurses of this country to be respected, for government to follow our agreements, I am ready.”
Meanwhile, a headcount of health workers in counties where nurses are on strike is on, with some receiving show cause letters.
The Health ministry and governors have threatened to take disciplinary action against nurses who have defied court and presidential orders to resume duty.
Panyako has defied such threats and indicated he is even ready to die for the nurses. ” We are ready to bite the bullet. I know that my life is in danger. I know I can be picked up and I can disappear, but I am not scared,” he said.
Both levels of government have threatened to ensure that nurses who will be dismissed for failure to resume work will not be rehired either by the national or county level.
In a joint press statement, the Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki and chairman of the Council of Governors (CoG) Wycliffe Oparanya said that there are mechanisms to ensure that dismissed officers are not rehired.
According to a February 18 letter by the Council of Governors, 250 of the 296 striking nurses in Garissa have received the letters.
In Samburu, the letters were issued followed by a salary stoppage notice. Only 10 nurses out of the 228 striking ones reported to duty.
Out of the 353 striking nurses in West Pokot County, only 88 who went to work on Friday will get their February pay.
Only four nurses have gone back to work, out of the 366 on strike in Taita-Taveta County.
The situation is different in Elgeyo-Marakwet as all nurses are back to work.
In Trans Nzoia, only nine are back to work. Just three out of 160 reported to the referral hospital in Kitale. Rural hospitals have no nurses.
In Kisumu, 137 nurses are back to work while 686 still on strike. Four nurses reported to work yesterday.
In Embu, only 130 nurses have reported to work. They have since called off the strike “to give negotiations a chance”.
At Pumwani Hospital, Nairobi all 97 nurses belonging to the Kenya National Union of Nurses have reported to work while 45 who are affiliated to the County Workers Union are still on strike.