Intern doctors strike over delayed payments
Intern Doctors under the National Medical Interns Association have staged a strike over poor pay, delayed payments and are now seeking for government response towards their plight.
Through their leadership umbrella, the national interns executive, the medical interns have requested the Government to improve their welfare and commit to pay their monthly allowances and also have the December 2017 debts of their colleagues in Soroti referral hospital cleared.
Speaking to the press today, the intern president Dr Robert Lubega said that despite their plight for better welfare, there has been persistent challenges of poor remunerations, delayed payments and chronic lack of medical supplies.
He added that more than half of the interns are not accommodated, not fed but entirely depend on the allowances which delay compared to their daily expenses amidst the work they ought to do.
“We do not want to strike, but we are having people being chased out of houses, people sleeping hungry, we are working on public holidays, on weekends, we work 48hrs constantly and have nothing to eat”
Lubega further said that of the 35 centres demanding payments, only six have received their March payments and these are paid from hospital budgets. These include Mbarara, Jinja, Masaka, Entebbe and Kaganda regional referral hospitals.
The negotiations for the doctors payments started in March and the finance ministry was tasked to re-allocate and prioritise funds to cater for a deficit to cover intern allowances.
Government had pledged to provide a supplementary budget of UGX 2.14bn, but only authorized reallocation of 1.596bn.
However the ministry hasn’t released the intern allowances saying the system is undergoing maintenance as per the letter dated 24th of April from the accountant general of ministry of finance.
“We tried negotiating but the negotiations seem to have failed, as long as our demands are not fulfilled, we are going to keep laying down our tools” Lubega said.
They have proposed that the ministry of health fulfill its pledge to release the supplementary budget claiming that the ministry’s reallocation of resources has paralyzed activities thus it should ensure continuity even for the many incoming interns.
The interns have also criticized the ministry for its intention of bringing in Cuban supervisors to train and supervise them saying it is inappropriate and a short term solution to the problem.
They have recommended the government to prioritize Ugandan specialist doctors at the same terms as the Cuban doctors and only bring in the Cubans if the Ugandan doctors fail to take up these slots.
The medical interns are graduates who undergo supervisory training for a year to attain an annual practicing license. These include doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and dentists. They provide the backbone of the public health human resource by filling the gap of the few health workers in the sector.
They have proposed that the ministry of health fulfils its pledge to release the supplementary budget claiming that the ministry’s reallocation of resources has paralysed activities thus it should ensure continuity even for the many incoming interns.