Concern as long-serving staff quit Kayunga hospital

Kayunga hospital main entrance. Long-serving staff have quit working at the facility over poor working conditions. PHOTO |FILE

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Medics say they are instead being ‘unfairly and maliciously’ transferred to remote health facilities in Moroto, Gulu or Nebbi districts.

There is growing concern among medical staff and authorities at Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital over the big number of long-serving staff who have quit the facility citing “poor working conditions’.

Dr Francis Kakooza, one of the senior medical staff at the 50-year -old facility, said many medical staff have opted to quit the referral hospital due to an unfavourable working environment.

Dr Kakooza, who was formerly the hospital’s medical superintendent before it was elevated to a regional referral hospital, noted that delayed promotions of the medical staff coupled with an unhealthy working environment are some of the factors that have forced them to leave.

“Some of us have served this hospital for more than 10 years and we’re due for promotion, but this has not happened, which demotivates us,” Dr Kakooza said in an interview on Tuesday.

Many of the medical staff who have quit have been deployed in various health facilities in the district such as Bbaale, Ntenjeru and Kangulumira Health Centre IV , according to  the Kayunga chief administrative officer, Mr Abdul Batambuze.

The massive exit of senior staff is likely to exacerbate the problem of acute shortage of staff at the regional facility, with Mr Louis Muhindo, the hospital principal administrator, saying they have a deficit of 380 medical staff.

“Some units at the facility are non-operational because we don’t have enough staff. Out of the 500 required medical staff, we only have 120,” Mr Muhindo said during an interview last month.

Further protesting what they termed as “selective promotion”, the old staff have asked the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Ms Beti Kamya, to investigate the matter.

“When the hospital was elevated to a regional referral status, we thought our prayers for getting promoted had been answered, but we were informed they could not promote us because there was no wage bill,” Dr Kakooza said.

“However, to our dismay, most of the posts have been filled with new staff from ‘outside’ and we wonder where the wage bill to pay them will come from,” Dr Kakooza, who has since joined  Kayunga Local government,  added.

By working for the Local Government, it means a medical worker is supervised by the district and can only be transferred within that particular district, unlike when a civil servant is under the central government where he or she can be transferred to work in any part of the country.

As a regional referral hospital, Kayunga is now controlled by the central government.

Another female senior medical worker at the hospital, who preferred anonymity, said last year, the Health Service Commission (HSC) carried out a validation exercise of all old staff at the hospital in preparation for the upgrade with a promise of promoting staff.

But the medics say they are instead being ‘unfairly and maliciously’ transferred to far away health facilities such as those in Moroto, Gulu or Nebbi districts.

A male medical staff, who said he had worked at the facility for 25 years, complained that any staff who questions the manner in which the current authorities at the facility carry out their work is labelled a “rebel” and recommended for a transfer to far way districts.

But Dr Robert Ssentongo, the Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital director, dismissed the allegations as baseless , explaining that all promotions of medical staff are carried out by the Health Service Commission, not  him or any other official  at the hospital.

“We don’t determine who should be promoted or not. Ssentongo does not deploy or even sack any staff,” Dr Ssentongo said.

He added: “The control of this facility is at the centre and whoever they deploy here is whom I work with.”

Mr Emmanuel Ainebyona, the Ministry of  Health spokesperson, said like all civil servants, medical staff can be transferred to any part of the country.

Those who have quit
Notable among those who have quit Kayunga Regional Referral Hospital are medical officers Francis Kakooza, Dr Prosy Namulondo and Dr Herbert Wagugubi. 

Others are Mr Patrick Edong (radiologist) and many other officers at lower ranks like nurses and midwives.

Mr Abdul Batambuze, the Kayunga chief district officer, yesterday confirmed that many medical workers at the facility had contacted him with a request to have them transfer their services to Kayunga District Local Government.

‘‘Unfortunately, the structure cannot allow it. We absorbed many of them and we cannot take more,’’ Mr Batambuze said.