Kenyan nurses vow to continue strike
Nairobi - Kenyan nurses vowed on Friday to continue a strike over better pay even after the government sacked all 25 000 of them partaking in the action, creating a potentially devastating shortage.
"The strike is still on," said Luke K'Odambo, chairperson of the National Nurses Association of Kenya, adding the sacking did "not make sense in any way," and that it was not possible to dismiss such a large part of the workforce.
The nurses went on strike on March 01 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.
"The government should face the reality and handle the nurses' strike seriously, it is worsening the situation even more by announcing the sackings," said Kenya Health Professionals Society coordinator Fred Omiya.
Government spokesperson Alfred Mutua on Thursday announced the drastic cuts, saying the country could "no longer sit and watch as Kenyans suffer in hospitals without medical attention because nurses and other medical staff are on strike".
"The names of the 25 000 nurses who are on strike have been removed from the pay roll. They are no longer employees of the government," Mutua said.
On Friday morning it appeared few nurses were at work in public hospitals in the capital Nairobi, with similar reports from across the country.
It was not immediately clear what proportion of the country's nurses had been fired, but if the job cuts are carried out, the east African nation's public health system will be severely impacted.
The strike has crippled public hospitals, with patients sometimes being sent home untreated. Kenyans who can afford it go to private clinics, which are for the most part operating normally.
Public opinion appears divided on the strike, with angry reports in newspapers that patients had died due to a lack of medical care.
"The government has continued to bury its head in the sand, routinely denying that the strike has claimed lives," an editorial in the Daily Nation newspaper read, warning of "brewing disaster".
"The row has raged on for too long, the whole matter has been badly handled by both the government and the workers."