By Samuel Ouma
Operations in various public hospitals in Kenya were halted on Tuesday for a second day in a row after healthcare workers downed their tools.
Nurses and clinicians boycotted work on Monday protesting the poor working conditions in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic.
They are demanding for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPEs), salary and allowances payment among others.
Patients seeking treatment in public hospitals were turned away forcing others to go to private facilities while some returned to their homes as the workers kept off their working stations.
The workers have accused the government of taking too long to address their grievances on the fight against the novel virus. They have vowed to remain put until their plights are addressed.
So far 13 doctors, at least 26 nurses and 9 clinical officers have succumbed to the deadly disease in the East African nation since the first case was reported in March.
The latest victim is Dr. Stephen Mugusu who was attached at Stablehealth Medicare Clinic in Kitengela, Machakos County, eastern of the country.
Dr. Stephen succumbed to the virus yesterday (Monday) after struggling to breathe at the Intensive Unit Care of the Nairobi’s Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital.
His demise was confirmed by Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU).
“Devastating to announce the demise of 28 yr old Dr Stephen Mogusu who has succumbed to COVID-19 complications,” read the tweet by KMPDU.
The deceased was reported to have warned his colleagues to save themselves before it gets too late through a WhatsApp message.
“My dear colleagues, let me take this opportunity to admonish you today to get your pay or get out while you can with your health or life intact,” read part of the message.
Responding to the ongoing strike, the deputy president William Ruto castigated politicians urging health workers to shelve their demands.
The second in command said the issues raised by the frontline workers tackling the virus should be given first priority.
“I think it is reckless and irresponsible for anybody to say that we wait for political processes so that we can find the money to address the pandemic that we are in. I think that is putting the cart before the horse. Let us sort out the pandemic, the political processes will follow.”
“To be able to deal effectively with the health pandemic, there is no other place to start other than making sure that our healthcare workers are properly equipped with Personal Protective Equipment and they are paid and their allowances are taken care of and all the issues they have raised are addressed,” Ruto said.
However, he pleaded with the healthcare unions to put into consideration of the challenges the East African country is facing owing to the pandemic even as they want the government to address their concerns.
Ruto’s remarks came a day after the opposition leader Raila Odinga asked the doctors to save lives of Kenyans and not to hold the government ransom by the ongoing strike.
The coronavirus has killed more than 1500 people in Kenya.