By Lillian Mutheu
Doctors around the country have been going on work strikes, many demonstrating against poor working conditions and delayed payments. Their counterparts in the health sector have not been left behind in this noble fight, with the majority of nurses and health workers issuing press conferences about looming strikes. It really is a health crisis that Kenyans are facing with many suffering, both patients and health workers, especially in the middle of a pandemic.
One of the most affected by the health workers’ strike are the citizens of Mukuru Kwa Njenga. As many would say, patients who frequently visit Mukuru Health Centre are facing the music. I visited the Health Centre yesterday and to my surprise, health officials were off duty, patients who had come seeking medical services left unattended to. This is just an example of what is happening around the country.
Mary Mwiguye, a patient at Mukuru Health Centre, shared her experience with me. “It’s a rather sad state that we are in right now. You see all these patients are sick, others are seriously ill. We have expectant mothers here visiting the clinic with some in labour pains. We can not help ourselves, no doctor or a nurse is around to help us. I just wish things were different,” said Mary.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic, for God’s sake. A doctors’ strike is the last thing that Kenya needs. This government is rather irresponsible, failing to pay doctors and nurses, what do they expect from that? The government should be taking care of its citizens. We elected leaders to be there for us at all times, even in our most painful and grievous moments: but look, we are in pain, here at Mukuru Health Centre, tens of hundreds of patients need to be attended to, treated and hopefully cured, and certainly in every other clinic and hospital in the country. Unfortunately, it is the opposite. Health officials have deserted the health center. What, are we, supposed to treat ourselves now?” posed Kevin Mwendwa, a patient at Mukuru Health Centre.
“I think it really is very irresponsible for both the government and health officials,” narrated Mercy Kerubo. “These doctors should be ethical and have a humane heart, Covid-19 cases are shooting up every day just like the inflation rate is. People here are seriously ill. We have diabetics, expectant mothers and many patients who need fast medical attention. Doctors should put service to patients up first before money.”
Lilian Wanza, a health official, said that the government should look into the welfare of doctors and nurses. “Just yesterday, we lost doctor Stephen Mogusu. He was a young, brilliant and selfless doctor who always put service to the people first. According to a report, he had an unpaid bill of close to Kshs 300,000 at Kenyatta University Hospital. Our employers haven’t paid us yet. How many more doctors and nurses are we going to lose in the line of duty? this is so unfair; we are telling the government that we have had enough. We demand our salaries,” said Wanza.
It is quite unfortunate that some doctors, nurses and their families are suffering such a saddening plight as Dr. Stephen Mogusu. The situation is worse for patients in the country. The government should act swiftly to end the health stalemate in our country. Kenyans have a right to health care and consequently, health officials have a right to equal pay for equal work.