Health services in most facilities in Vihiga County have been crippled following a decision by health workers to down their tools over delayed salary.
The health workers officially went on strike on Wednesday.
A spot check by Kenya News Agency (KNA) Thursday morning established several patients were being turned away due to absence of medics to attend to them at the health centres and dispensaries as well as Vihiga County Referral and Teaching Hospital.
Speaking to KNA Wycliffe Alumasa Secretary-General to county workers caucuses said the health professionals decided to boycott work as a way of pushing the county government to remit their March salary.
According to Alumasa, the aggrieved health employees had unanimously resolved to stay home until the county treasury pays their dues.
“The health workers could not stage protest demonstrations in the public out of respect for the current health guidelines, including the daily curfew, as the country continues to fight the spread of Covid-19 virus,” said Alumasa.
The official blamed the county government over what he described as entrenching the habit of delaying county workers’ salaries since the end of last year.
“The problem of delay in remitting workers salaries in Vihiga County has now become a constant since December 2019,” protested Alumasa.
Expressing displeasure, Alumasa observed the situation was putting the workers on a collision course with their key service providers such as Kenya Power because of the inability to settle personal bills on time.
Last week, the health professionals issued a seven-days salary strike notice through umbrella unions, including Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), Kenya National Union for Medical Laboratory Officers (KNUMLO), Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO).
The strike notice was copied to the County Executive, headed by Governor Dr Wilber Ottichilo.
However, speaking to KNA the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) in charge of Public Service Administration, Pamella Kimwele, appealed to the health workers to resume duty saying the county treasury was finalising on processing the March salaries.
“The finance department has already prepared the salary payment schedule and anytime from now the same will be wired to individual accounts,” said Kimwele.
The CEC blamed the National Treasury for the delay in paying workers salaries.
“The National Treasury has not remitted tranches for the last two months, thus the challenge we are currently experiencing as a county,” she disclosed.
Speaking separately, the County KNUN Secretary Caleb Maloba maintained the unions would call off the strike immediately the health workers receive their salaries.
Vihiga Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) Abdi Fatah urged the county government to resolve the workers’ demand, noting the strike was affecting the county’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Without the health professionals, the ongoing efforts to handle the virus might prove futile,” observed Fatah who is in charge of the County Coronavirus Command Centre.