By Jacqueline Kubania and Peter Mburu
A management tussle at St Mary’s Hospital in Nairobi escalated on Thursday resulting in a few hours of disruption and suspension of services in parts of the facility.
Auctioneers and policemen acting on a court order procured by the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi stormed the hospital Thursday morning and forced the current administration out, saying they were under instructions to oversee a takeover by a new management.
They also installed new medical and non-medical staff, leaving the old hospital workers uncertain of their future.
“The new managers advertised our jobs through social media a few weeks ago, and this morning, police officers were directed to prevent us from accessing our work stations. We have been told that new people have already taken our jobs. We don’t understand why as we are not directly involved in the quarrel about the hospital ownership,” said James Kimani, the hospital’s head of pharmacy, who has worked there for 14 years.
But the incoming management said it was willing to allow the staff back at work, claiming that it had only brought replacements because it feared trouble.
“We anticipated that the old staff might ground operations at the hospital in protest over the changing management so we recruited and brought our own people. We have, however, not fired anybody and we are willing to keep working with the old staff provided they cooperate with us,” said Mr Morris Audi, who identified himself as the incoming hospital manager.
He said that the new management had hired 143 new staff, including 20 doctors, 20 clinical officers and 50 nurses.
The court order seen by the Nation is the culmination of a seven-year legal battle between the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi – who are trustees of the land on which the hospital stands – and an American priest, Father William Fryda, who founded the hospital in the 1950s. Also included in the tussle is a similar hospital in Nakuru County, which the court declared belongs to the nuns as well.
The Sisters went to court to seek legal redress after Father Fryda declined to hand over the management of the hospitals to them in 2010. They claimed that the hospitals were their brainchild and that Father Fryda had only come in as a medical doctor and nothing more.
Father Fryda, however, claimed that the Assumption Sisters only held control of the hospitals in trust as he could not legally own land in Kenya, and that he had singlehandedly sourced the funds from donors to buy the land and build the hospitals.
The court ordered Father Fryda to hand over the hospitals’ bank accounts to the nuns.
In Nakuru, residents living around St Mary’s Hospital in Gilgil came out armed to protect the facility following an earlier attack at the hospital’s Lang’ata branch in Nairobi.
Armed with rungus, the tens of young men camped at the hospital’s main gate to confront any intruders into the facility, saying they could not allow anybody to take over the facility from which they earn a living.
The crisis followed a court judgment at the Nakuru Land and Environment Court on September 29 that declared the Assumption Sisters the rightful owners of the property.
The Catholic nuns won the case after a six-year court battle with Father Fryda.
While delivering the judgment recently, Justice Sila Munyao observed that the missionary who filed the case in 2011 seeking to eject the nuns from the hospital premises for allegedly interfering with the running of the facilities had not presented evidence to prove that he was entitled to run the multi-billion-shilling properties on trust.
“The court finds no evidence that the property was held in trust on behalf of Father Fryda because it was registered under the company known as St Mary’s Mission Hospital. The court, therefore, orders that the hospital’s property be transferred to the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi,” the Judge said.
When the Nation visited the facility on Thursday in Lang’ata after the attack, both out- and in-patient services were running normally with over 60 patients admitted to the 120-bed capacity institution.
The nurse in charge, Mr Selasio Marangu, said they had not been affected even though patients feared for their safety following the incident.
The nurse blamed the Catholic Nuns for using inhuman means to eject workers who had served the facilities for over 17 years.
“These hospitals have employees who have worked for decades and you cannot just wake up one morning and eject them,” Mr Marangu said.
The nurse indicated that the hospital served over 1,200 patients daily, thus, such interference could bring catastrophic results.
SOURCE: The Nation, Kenya