Kenya's public hospitals face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government said Thursday it had fired 25,000 striking nurses.
The nurses went on strike March 1 to protest the government's failure to implement a salary increase agreed last year, when they also stopped work to press for improved services in Kenya's mostly ill-equipped public hospitals.
Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the country "can no longer sit and watch as Kenyans suffer in hospitals without medical attention because nurses and other medical staff are on strike."
"The names of the 25,000 nurses who are on strike have been removed from the pay roll," Mutua said. "They are no longer employees of the government."
No union official could be immediately reached for comment.
It was not immediately clear what proportion of the country's nurses had been fired, but if the job cuts are carried out, the African nation's public health system will be severely impacted.
The strike has already crippled public hospitals, with patients sometimes being sent home untreated. Kenyans who can afford it go to private clinics, which are for the most part operating normally.
Mutua said the country was looking to immediately replace those who had been fired.
"With the sacking of these nurses, we call on qualified practitioners out there to start applying for this jobs immediately to fill these gaps," he said. "The process of recruiting will be expedited."
Medical Services Minister Anyang Nyong'o had said on Wednesday that the nurses would be sacked if they failed to return to work.
"The same Constitution that gives (nurses) the rights to strike also gives every Kenyan born or unborn the right to life," he said.
Source: AFP Global Edition