Kenyan media reports suggest that the ongoing go-slow by Kenya’s nursing fraternity has robbed the lives of nearly 20 or more patients.
The nurses’ strike, which began on June 5th, has paralysed public healthcare services countrywide, forcing many patients to seek help from expensive private healthcare clinics.
There is an apparent deadlock between government and the nurses’ union representatives regarding proposals to raise nurses wages by 12.5 percent. These proposals are contained in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed last year in a bid to improve nurses welfare.
However, the government now claims that it is untenable to readjust national and county budget allocations to honour this agreement.In 2016, a similar nationwide strike that stretched for three weeks led to the deaths of over 300 patients.
The nurses have petitioned the government severally in the past arguing that inhumane working conditions hamper service delivery.
Among the key components of Kenya’s ‘Vision 2030′ is enhancing health care provision, but progress has been slow in increasing the budgetary allocation from about 5 percent to 15 percent as stated by the Abuja Declaration (2001).
With a million people living below the poverty line, Kenyans can ill-afford to endure another nurses’ strike that will force them to tighten household budgets.
Furthermore, given the effect that quality healthcare has in boosting economic growth, the current impasse in the sector threatens to reduce the gains made in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
A significant percentage of Kenya’s health care funding comes from donors. However, several corruption scandals in the 2014-2016 period have dimmed donor confidence considerably. Thus, the government has to become inventive in fundraising the healthcare budgetary shortfalls if UHC is to be realised.
UHC forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals, which means that the government’s actions in the next few days will be closely watched.
Despite negotiations between nurses’ union officials and the government reaching a stalemate, there is still hope. The upcoming general election is 49 days away, and within that time, there is a narrow opportunity for damage control.