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200 Nairobi Hospital staff face sack after court nod

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The Nairobi Hospital entrance. The hospital said it has been struggling financially like other institutions hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A judge has cleared the way for Nairobi Hospital to fire more than 200 employees in a move aimed at cutting costs and clearing out staff implicated in a recent graft audit.
  • The premier hospital wants to fire workers who either performed poorly or had been involved in unethical practices that were exposed in the recent forensic audit.

A judge has cleared the way for Nairobi Hospital to fire more than 200 employees in a move aimed at cutting costs and clearing out staff implicated in a recent graft audit.

Justice Nzioki wa Makau dismissed a petition by Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels Educational Institutions Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) saying it was premature since a letter by the management to the union dated March 10, was meant to open talks between the parties ahead of the restructuring plan.

The premier hospital wants to fire workers who either performed poorly or had been involved in unethical practices that were exposed in the recent forensic audit.

“Besides the staff affected by normal rationalisation, the hospital is disengaging with all staff who have perennial performance issues or were implicated in unethical practices during forensic audits,” the hospital said in a statement.

Kudheiha rushed to the Employment and Labour court to block the layoffs saying the move was targeting its members and the plan, which was disguised as restructuring, was done without following the mandatory procedures set out in the Employment Act.

But Justice Makau said since the letter was meant for dialogue, the proper solution in the case is to allow the union and the management to consult on the way forward.

“Since courts loath to interfere with the managerial prerogatives, the matters at play are within the purview of the parties to deal under the resolution mechanisms provided for in the CBA and through the conciliatory process at the Ministry of Labour,” Justice Makau said.

Like other institutions in the country, Nairobi Hospital said it has been struggling financially amid swelling operational costs and lower revenues in the wake of an economic slowdown worsened by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But in an affidavit, the secretary- general of the union Albert Njeru said operations at the hospital were going on as usual. He said the hospital has been experiencing shortage of beds as admissions for Covid-19 patients surged, in the last eight months. According to Mr Njeru, it was insincere of the hospital to say that business has been shrinking.

The hospital admitted writing the letter, which was copied to Cabinet Secretary for Labour, intending to reduce the number of staff. The court heard that there was nothing wrong to reduce staff because of economic downturn caused by Covid-19 pandemic.

The hospital admitted that it was overwhelmed by new admission of patients, but that does not mean that it was operating at its optimum.