Unpaid and Discarded: How Vihiga County Treats Health Workers during a Health Crisis

The current state of the Vihiga Health Department paints a very sorry state of affairs in the County. Rampant corruption within the department and mistreatment of Health Care workers has brought operations to a standstill in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In 2019, Health Care workers had not received three months’ salary, prompting them to strike and stay away from the health facilities, as they were unable to commute from their homes. The response? Vihiga County Government advertised for 148 new Health Care Worker positions and ended up with 548 staff on its books due to corruption.

But as of August 2020, the new workers had also not been paid - for ten months, despite taking the matter to court. The court ordered the county government to pay the Health Workers their salaries.

To make matters worse, the County Government failed to issue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Health Workers, putting them at risk of contracting the deadly Coronavirus. Yet the Vihiga County government records having spent Ksh 28 million, which to date has not been accounted for.  There have been many attempts by local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to demand accountability.

So, Health Care Workers, community health volunteers, local Civil Society Organizations, and community members organised together to address the issue with the IFA Western Team - focusing on the rampant corruption in a time of an acute health crisis.

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On 12th August 2020, the group led a peaceful demonstration to the governor’s office in Mbale, to present a petition highlighting all these concerns. Police attempted to disperse the protesters outside the governor’s office, stopping them from delivering their petition. But the protesters knew their rights and showed determination. They held their ground and insisted on Governor Wilber Ottichilo coming out of to receive the petition.

After four hours, the Governor and the County Secretary succumbed to pressure and came out to receive the petition and address the issue of corruption.

 

By the IFA Western Team

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