Kenyan nurses have now been on strike for 115 days. I am horrified when I dare to imagine how many people have died as a result of the nurses not being at their stations to save lives and the few doctors, who are taking on some of their duties, being completely overwhelmed.
On the day that I was born, it was a nurse who delivered me, just like most children born inside a hospital in this country. In the days and months following birth, Polio, BCG, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Pneumococcal vaccines are administered to babies by nurses. It’s a horrifying fact, therefore, that most of the children born since the strike started have not been immunized. Some of those born before the strike have also missed their subsequent immunizations.
The effects of this strike will be felt for many years to come. There are children who will contract polio and never be able to walk properly, because they weren’t immunized. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV is happening now and there are children who will get HIV because their HIV positive mother couldn’t deliver in a hospital. The last doctor’s strike lasted for over 100 days. Patients suffered terribly as the government played hardball. Today, they’re doing the same thing with the nurses, including teargassing them when they try to exercise their constitutional right to protest. As the nurses were striking, the government, in what could only be termed as bad faith, decided to classify them as “unskilled labour”, so that they would not have to honour the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) they had signed with the nurses.
Lives have been lost during this strike, but instead of parliament prioritizing discussions on how to get nurses back to work, the “honourable” members prefer to make demands for their girlfriends, and children born out of wedlock, to be given private medical insurance at the taxpayer’s expense. Meanwhile, ordinary families have been bankrupted as they’re forced to sell everything they own in a bid to raise money for taking their loved ones to private hospitals. Social media is full of medical appeals, because citizens are being forced to go to costly private hospitals.
The reason why President Uhuru Kenyatta, county governors and other elected officials will not prioritise ending the strike, is because they have private medical cover for themselves and their families and are not affected by the strike.
When l was running for MP Starehe, l had proposed that we scrap the private medical cover all politicians get. How else would they be expected to improve the health sector if they never interact with it? They should be registered for NHIF and receive medical care in the country at public facilities. If that was to happen, any strike in the medical sector would be dealt with swiftly and effectively. Our hospitals would also be well-equipped. When doctors recently went on strike, nurses continued working in the hospitals to save lives, deliver babies and care for patients. Now we, the taxpayers, must stand with them in their hour of need.
To all the voters; as long as you keep blindly voting for party and tribe, you will continue to suffer. As our employees, we must demand that all politicians make use of public hospitals. After all that’s where we, their employers, go. If politicians want to use private hospitals, let them use the salaries we pay them to fund their medical covers.