Nurses want Okoa Kenya to help push for formation of a health service commission

By: TIMOTHY KEMEI

The Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) has vowed to oppose the Okoa Kenya referendum campaign if it does not propose the creation of a health service commission.

The commission would cater for the interests of nurses and other medical practitioners in the country.

In a telephone interview with the Nation, Knun national secretary-general Seth Panyako said doctors, like teachers, require a centralised management body to deal with their employment, promotion, payment and disciplinary matters.

“The commission will only handle the human resources function. It will deal with sticky issues like inter-county transfers and streamline payment of salaries for medical staff to end the current situation where some counties pay workers on time while others delay,” he said.

He was supported by Kericho Knun executive secretary Geoffrey Tarus who urged the Okoa Kenya secretariat to get in touch with the nurses’ union so that it can include its submissions in the final draft of the referendum question.

The two officials said nurses across the country numbered thousands and warned the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (Cord), which is behind the referendum push, that ignoring nurses could cost it victory in the planned referendum.

HEALTH TO REMAIN UNDER COUNTIES

Mr Panyako, however, assured governors that the union will not be demanding that the management of the health services be reverted to the national government, noting that several county governments, including Kericho, Kisumu and Kisii, had made huge strides in the sector.

He said county governments have installed modern equipment in hospitals across Kenya, thereby ensuring that the quality of healthcare is improved.

He added that it would be foolhardy for him or the union to oppose a system that was bringing development to Kenyans.

He cited the upgrading of the Kisii Level Five Hospital and the Kericho District Hospital to referral status, with operational intensive care and high dependency units.

Nonetheless, Mr Panyako said some counties were lagging behind and had done little in the healthy sector and cited Kakamega County as one of those which had done ‘literally nothing’ to improve health.

“We also have problems with some counties where salaries for our members are often delayed.

“The counties blame the delay on failure by the national government to release funds to them on time but we want this issue to be addressed as soon as possible,” he said.

He also condemned discrimination of staff in some counties where people viewed as coming from other counties are not employed as medical workers, terming the situation as ‘deplorable.’

He said the Constitution was clear that at least 30 per cent of staff should come from outside the county and called on governors to intervene and make sure that this law requirement is adhered to.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION