On Wednesday, nurses under their umbrella body, the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU), re-echoed their demand for salary increment, which was first brought to the attention of the relevant authorities last year.
In November 2017, nurses threatened to lay down their tools unless their demands for 400 per cent salary increment were met. The proposed industrial action was only halted after President Museveni promised to address the issue.
However, the revisions made as per Budget were not satisfactory and thus the nurses rejected it in April. As things stand now, according to UNMU president Mr Justus Cherop Kiplangat, the health workers want a written assurance from government stating its commitment to attend to their demands, which stretches from salary and allowance increment to restructuring of the health systems, failure of which they will effect the industrial action.
With nurses making up the biggest section of healthcare personnel in Uganda - at 21,000 nurses employed in government facilities - their strike, if it comes to pass, will no doubt greatly paralyse the provision of health services across the country.
Nurses are a critical facet in our healthcare system and the government must make it a priority to forge a way forward in as far as improving their work environment and welfare is concerned.
Last year, much to the frustration of UNMU, government negotiated with Uganda Medical Association when they gave a 30-day notice instead of the 90-day period stipulated by the law, prompting UNMU to front their demands as well. Currently, the salary scale of nurses and midwives in government health facilities stands at Shs400,000 and Shs710,000 for diploma holders respectively. An increase would push it to between Shs1 million and Shs2 million.
Most pertinent are issues concerning the system as regards qualifications given that it is a hindrance in the progress of the industry in a constantly changing environment. That the current salary scale does not give special consideration to nurses qualified beyond the diploma level is detrimental to the profession as more nurses are seeking higher qualifications such as degrees, master’s and PhDs.
With the shortage of doctors, nurses go a long way to be key medical service providers thus they must be encouraged to attaint utmost expertise in their field. The Ministry of Public Service should not stand in the way of better health services, but rather create a synergy aimed to motivate and inspire the nurses.
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