Wednesday April 7 2010

Medics demand more say in new salary structure

By Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa

Uganda Medical Workers Union has asked the Ministry of Public Service to involve it in the ongoing negotiations aimed at enhancing health workers’ salaries.

UMWU secretary general Dr Sam Lyomoki, says leaving the union out of negotiations is unfair since they have been at the forefront of the fight for a pay rise.
“We know very well that Ministry of Public Service is in process of enhancing health workers’ salaries as directed by the President but the most unfortunate bit, is that we have been sidelined,” Lyomoki told journalists at Mengo.

“We know our problems better and we believe it would be appropriate if they involve us in those negotiations before deciding on the new salary structure.”

President Museveni wants health workers’ salaries raised in the next financial year. State Minister for Public Service Presca Mbaguta declined to comment on the matter.

“I am not aware about their complaints and I need to first consult my senior minister (Henry Kajura) over the matter,” she said on Monday.

Government has severally promised to enhance the salary of health workers operating in hard-to-reach areas by 30 per cent but it has not yet done so. This has prompted hundreds of them to leave the country in search for greener pastures.

Uganda is reportedly losing at least 1,400 skilled professionals each year. For example, in 2007 virtually all medical workers in Adjumani District resigned and got employment in South Sudan.

Workers MP Lyomoki blamed the government for its failure to recruit a sizeable number of medics in public health facilities.

“Every year it (government) announces a specific number to be recruited but when you go on the ground there are few staff yet Ugandans are in dire need of their services,” he said.

Last year, government announced that 1,000 health workers were to be recruited to address the human resource shortfall currently dogging the sector.

The Health Service Commission chairman, Prof. George Kirya said then that commission had in 2008 failed to meet its target of employing 800 health workers as only 640 were absorbed into the sector. This was blamed on a constricted labour market in clinical areas such as radiology, pathology and anaesthesiology which attract few applicants.

But Dr Lyomoki says some medics deliberately refuse to apply for the jobs advertised by district health service commissions because they are underpaid.

A medical doctor earns a net salary of Shs708, 945 monthly, while a registered nurse gets Shs473,121, which is way below the world markets. An enrolled nurse meanwhile earns Shs346,418 and support staff each carry home a meager Shs 278,142.

The country’s doctor to patient ratio currently stands at a worrying 1:18,000, compared to the internationally acceptable ratio of 1:5-10.

Recently, Ministry of Health technocrats reported a staggering shortfall of 2,290 nurses in government hospitals alone.

There are only 29,000 medical personnel in a country of 31 million people, which has constrained efforts to ensure service delivery.

In the 2009-10 financial year, only 10 per cent of the national budget was allocated to the health sector.