Uganda risks losing heart surgeons, says expert

Saturday March 28 2020

At work. Surgeons operate on a child at CoRSU

At work. Surgeons operate on a child at CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital in April 2019. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By TONNY ABET

Uganda risks losing more heart surgeons to other countries due to poor pay, a former board chairman of the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) has revealed.
Dr Robert Ssebunnya, who is also the presidential advisor on Buganda Affairs, in an open letter to the President, is calling for government review of the compensation policy for heart surgeons in the super specialist category.
This, he says, will avert the inevitable brain drain.
He says the country has spent a lot of money training specialists but has failed to put in place structures to retain them.
“Arising from this success of developing super specialists is the failure to provide them with the necessary and conducive working environment to enable them perform maximally to the benefit of the people of Uganda,” Dr Ssebunnya writes.
He adds: “An intensivist abroad is paid on average $20,000 (Shs77m) monthly plus other benefits, within Africa $10,000 (Shs38m) per month is the average. In Uganda the Public Service salary scale does not provide for super specialists, so they draw the salary of an ordinary medical consultant which is Shs7m.”
Dr Ssebunnya says all the super specialists currently working at the UHI have international exposure and recognition, which makes them very marketable to outside countries and could be tempted to leave, denting the country’s efforts to carry out heart surgeries internally.
Ugandans currently spend millions of dollars annually on heart treatment abroad, especially India. Uganda faces serious problems with heart disease, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting that up to 8,428 deaths related to heart conditions occurred in Uganda in the year 2017 alone.

See Dr Ssebunnya’s full letter in letters

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