Gov’t can’t restrict doctors from working in private clinics – Minister

Government efforts to restrict doctors attached to government health facilities from working in private hospitals and clinics have been held back by a poor resource envelope allocated to the Health sector, the State Minister for General Duties at Ministry of Health, Sarah Opendi has told Parliament.

Addressing Parliament in response to Nakaseke South MP Paulson Ssemakula Luttamaguzi who had wanted government to use its discretion and restrict health workers to only government facilities to reduce cases of patients finding no doctors at government health facilities.

Luttamaguzi brought up the matter following the death of an expectant mother who lost her life during birth at Nakaseke hospital because the doctors were not there.

Opendi said told Parliament that absenteeism is one of the administrative challenges the Ministry is still grappling with because some health professionals divide their time between public and private facilities much as public hospitals are supposed to operate 24 hours a day, throughout the week.

“We thought we should come up with clear laws banning public servants in working in private facilities at the same time because they give in three hours to public health facilities and then spend most of their time in the private health facilities. We couldn’t move in that direction because of poor pay to our health workers,” Opendi said.

“You can imagine a consultant would earn about Shs 10 million in a private facility and we are paying them about Shs 2 million, I hope we cover this issue of pay to our health workers so that we can move to ban them from working in private and public health facilities at the same time we are having,” she added.

Last year, doctors under the Uganda Medical Association announced a countrywide sit down strike in protest against their poor remuneration.

An entry-level doctor in public healthcare at the time was earning  about Shs 1.1 million per month while a senior doctor was earning Shs 3.4 million which the union wanted revised upwards to Shs 8.5 million and Shs 45 million respectively.