OPINION: Nurses, doctors and everyone else employed under UHC must be paid

OPINION: Nurses, doctors and everyone else employed under UHC must be paid

By Catherine Maina

If you have followed my writing long enough, you know I call out injustice without mincing my words.

You also know I accord compliments where they are due without fear or favor.

I hold no brief for anybody and for that reason it is hard for you to buy me into sycophancy.Allow me to break something down for you.

When they devolved the services of the central government under the 2010 constitution, they devolved health services too.

That gave governors an immense responsibility and associated resources. What happened was that each county became responsible for among other roles, hiring and firing their own staffs.

Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) and Mathari Mental Hospital are some of the facilities that remained under the national government.

Those became immune to county directives. A good and a bad thing depending on who you ask. Sasa, since human beings are diverse, some governors did extremely well in managing healthcare.

I will unashamedly refer you to my governor William Gitau wa Kabogo. He blazed the trail on matters healthcare in Kiambu County.

Since no good deed goes unpunished, the sovereign people of Kiambu County decided he was neither fit for purpose nor fit for practice. They gave him the pink slip in 2017. Democracy, right?

Some governors had no clue what to do about healthcare. The inequalities, rugged management and other factors prompted my President Uhuru Muigai wa Kenyatta to try and fix the whole issue.

He birthed what is touted as the Big Four Agenda after his re-election. One of the Big 4 was Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

UHC has its roots in the Sustainable Development Goals (2015) adopted by the United Nations. Every member nation was expected to work towards all goals and UHC is specifically covered by Goal Number 3.

Under this, the president launched various activities in the country including my personal best; collaboration with NHIF to deliver better public healthcare insurance.

I’ll tell you about NHIF and why I think it is a goldmine we should be proud of as a nation some day. As for now let’s focus on UHC in its own merit.

Nurses and doctors and other allied Healthcare workers were hired under the UHC program. This was roughly five or six months ago. Which sounds very good at face value.

These nurses and doctors and others however, did not get informed who would pay them. Was it the county government or was it the national government?

Under whose payroll are they? You may tell me the County government and you are right.

However, what I want you to know today as truthfully as the earth is round is that these young men and ladies are yet to receive a salary from either the central government or the County Governments.

A cool five months plus down the line, they are going to work without pay.

Please remember that there are doctors and nurses hired by the counties and also the central government who have been getting their salaries even it has been getting delayed.

What I want you to see is that even as these old employees are getting their delayed salaries, the UHC ones get nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Why this should bother you is that the president allocated money for UHC and part of the deal was hiring these lovely souls.

What happened to that money? As my mother would ask, kwani pesa inapakwa mafuta?

I am not sure whether the president of this country is aware but please do tell him that his baby project, the UHC, is demeaning and taking away the lives of the healthcare workers it employed.

My colleagues have been left without medical cover, no rent, no travel and risk allowances, and absolutely no money to help them get by. They are living on the edge of a cliff and some have started falling off.

A few weeks ago, Citizen TV Kenya reported the case of a nurse who attempted suicide because she had gone without pay and she was simply fed up.

Fed up of being a breadwinner with no bread. Fed up of month after month of insidious excuses and warped theories of inadequacy. She broke down. She was employed under UHC.

On Monday, a young doctor at the tender age of 28 died while fighting Covid-19 complications and he left his family with a huge medical bill and no money to even live off on. He was employed under UHC.

Fellow Kenyans, I want you to help me understand why it is impossible to pay these people employed under UHC. Please explain to me in very simple terms. Why?

Friends, this is a dumpster fire. We need it quelled. We need to at least pay nurses, doctors and everyone else employed under UHC.

This is not about logistics, it is about humanity. It is about knowing that these young people have bills to pay and a mouth or more to feed. It is about saving them from the jaws of debts and potential end of life.

Healthcare workers are not very good with prose. I belong to the small percentage that can do prose. They write it in point form. All they would say for example in this case is:

Pay UHC healthcare workers. They would rather be at work. Even if they were to strike, who would cover the UHC healthcare workers? They are not even unionised!

They have no legal basis to go on strike. Theirs is a prison day in and out.

Fellow Kenyans, even as the rest of healthcare workers down their tools and others suspend their industrial actions, we need to pay the UHC healthcare workers even if it is peanuts. Pay them. Pay them. Pay them. I am ashamed of the mess this has been.

Mine is to give you information. What you do with it is beyond my control.

Catherine Maina is a United Kingdom Registered Nurse and a student pursuing Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Derby, England.