Kenya's government fired 25,000 public health workers, including nurses, for striking, BBC News reported.
The health workers have been on strike since last week to demand better pay, allowances and working conditions, according to BBC. The average health worker in Kenya earns about 25,000 Kenyan shillings, or $300, a month in salary and benefits, BBC reported.
The government announced Thursday that all unemployed or retired health workers in the east African country should report to their nearest health facility on Friday morning to be interviewed for the vacant posts, Reuters reported.
“We made a decision on Sunday and the leaders told them to go back to work and we set up a structure for discussion. So, if somebody is still going on the streets and saying they are not going back there is something wrong with their head,” Kenya's Medical Services Minister Anyang Nyong’o told Capital News Kenya.
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Government spokesman Alfred Mutua told the Associated Press that the health workers’ names had been removed from the payroll.
However, some believe that the firing is just a ploy by the government to get health workers back at their posts.
"We are ignoring the sacking threat," said Alex Orina, spokesman for the 40,000-member Kenya Health Professionals Society, Reuters reported. "These are cat-and-mouse games, you cannot sack an entire workforce. [...] Our strike continues until our demands are met."
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Orina said the health workers are striking because of a heavy workload due to staff shortages, and because of inadequate equipment and supplies. He claimed that some of the nurses have had to deliver babies without surgical gloves, exposing themselves, the mother and the child to infections, the AP reported.
Kenyan media reports that five people have died so far during the strike, including reports that a mother and newborn died at the gates of a hospital, have not been confirmed, the AP reported.
“The government has taken this firm action to alleviate further suffering of innocent Kenyans," Mutua said. "It is wrong and unethical, regardless of any disagreement, for a health professional to abscond duty and lead to the loss of life and or suffering of any patient.”