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Averting Health Worker Strikes through Round Table Forums in Turkana County

Participants of a Roundtable meeting between the Turkana County Department of Health Leadership and Health Worker union officials at Cradle Hotel, Lodwar

With health service delivery crippled in a number of counties across the country as a result of the ongoing nurses’ strike, Amref Health Africa in Kenya is leading the way in bringing the striking nurses and county health leadership to the negotiation table.

Building on the belief that harmonious labour relations within the health sector are critical in ensuring stable health systems, Amref through the USAID funded Afya Timiza project facilitated the establishment of a round table forum to facilitate dialogue meetings between the Turkana County Department of Health and health worker unions.

In the past, Turkana County has been affected by long periods of industrial unrest from health workers, adversely affecting service delivery.

The roundtable forum was convened by the Turkana County Department of Health and attended by all the leaders of the health worker unions in the County. The USAID funded Afya Timiza project facilitated the dialogue process by providing technical support for labour relations to the county health department and logistical support to both parties. This provided an opportunity for the county and health worker union leaders to have an open meeting of equals to discuss issues raised by union leaders, examine responses by the county health leadership and develop a formula to keep the health workers at work.

Prior to this meeting, there had been no attempted dialogue and the parties were unwilling to engage. The Afya Timiza facilitated process included meetings with the county to get commitment to be the convener of the roundtable dialogue sessions; mapping and reaching out to all health worker union leaders; identifying issues affecting the unions and the county department of health; consensus building on the agenda for the meeting; convening the meeting at a neutral venue; deliberations and agreeing on resolutions, and the development of a working formula between the two parties.

As an output of the discussions, the county health leadership committed to convene quarterly roundtable forums to provide employer-employee updates and progress. Most importantly, it was agreed that Turkana county health workers will not go on strike.

Amref Health Africa believes that health service delivery begins with frontline health workers, and therefore their engagement and empowerment is of utmost importance. Governments (national and county, workers unions, professional associations and civil society have a joint responsibility to improve and secure the working conditions of health workers while empowering them in the decision making process.

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