40% health workers dodge duty – report
Posted Monday, September 30 2013 at 01:00
The government attributed the problem to insufficient supervision at the district levels and inadequate skills by authorities to monitor health workers.
At least 40 per cent of health workers countrywide are rarely at their workstations, a new survey by the Ministry of Health has revealed.
The Health Sector Performance Report 2012/2013 cites district hospitals and lower health units as the most affected. For a sector that is still struggling with staffing levels, news of nearly half of health work force being absent from duty stations worsens the situation.
According to the report, the most quoted reasons for absenteeism were poor pay, poor working conditions and study leave.
On average, a doctor earns between Shs500,000 and Shs600,000 while a nurse or midwife earns between Shs350,000 and Shs450,000.
Speaking at the launch of the report in Kampala last week, Junior Health minister Elioda Tumwesigye said absenteeism was negatively affecting service delivery. He attributed the problem to insufficient supervision at the district level, saying authorities were not doing enough to ensure that health workers report for duty regularly.
Mr Tumwesigye also said inadequate skills of district leaders and limited time was hampering the ability of supervisors to discharge their duties, especially in remote areas. He insisted the ministry was instituting reforms to handle the problem.
A 2011 study of health workers from developing countries found that 87 per cent of respondents had at least one other job. Half of those respondents were not available for more than 25 per cent of the expected working time.
In Uganda, absenteeism spiked on market days when health workers would abscond from their duties in order to sell produce to compensate for inadequate salaries.
In addition, 55 per cent of health workers surveyed responded that inadequate housing or transport as well as delayed pay, were also among the reasons they missed work.
Earlier this year, Kasese District threatened to dismiss more than 30 health workers for absconding from duty. The district senior personnel officer, Mr Samson Bihanikire, said his office was already gathering data following a resolution made by the district council to dismiss workers who had failed to report for duty for several months.
Mr Tumwesigye said the ministry was planning to tag pay to performance such that absentee health workers walk home empty-handed. “Cadres who work for longer hours will be paid more and also given non-monetary benefits,” he said.