Delayed recruitment leaves 1,200 positions in health sector vacant 

A patient sleeps with her child on the hospital floor. Many health facilities across the country are poorly facilitated. Several regional referral hospitals that have appeared before the Public Accounts Committee have reported severe manpower shortages, which are crippling their abilities to offer the required services to the patients. PHOTO | FILE

More than 1,200 positions remain vacant due to bureaucratic tendencies that hamper smooth recruitment exercise, the Monitor has established. 

While the Ministry of Health points accusing fingers at the Health Service Commission over alleged failure to attract consultants and specialists in regional referral hospitals and other health facilities upcountry, the Commission says it can only carry out recruitment with clearance from the Ministry of Public Service. The Ministry of Public Service hasn’t given them a node to recruit.

The Ministry of Health says they have managed to attract specialists to work upcountry, but they cannot access the payroll due to bureaucracies and strict recruitment guidelines.

The Health ministry officials further say the candidates are subjected to interviews, whose process is unnecessarily delayed, and they end up opting for other alternatives.

While appearing before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee yesterday, Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, said such bureaucracy has hampered their efforts to recruit specialists for upcountry hospitals.

“What has been happening is that we get specialists whom we convince to go and work in these hospitals, but they cannot access the payroll because the Health Service Commission is still stuck to its routine of advertising, shortlisting and conducting interviews, which delays the entire process,” she said.

Several regional referral hospitals that have appeared before the Committee have reported severe manpower shortages, which are crippling their abilities to offer the required services to the patients.

Dr Atwine appealed to Public Service ministry to relax the strict recruitment guidelines so that more consultants can be recruited when opportunity comes.

“It is very easy for us to convince these consultants and tell them please go and work upcountry and then submit the names to the Health Service Commission to regularise them,” she said.

Mr Pius Okong, the chairperson of the Health Service Commission, however, told the Committee that the problem is bigger than the commission itself. 

Citing Public Service standing orders, he said all the vacancies must be cleared by the Public Service ministry before they are advertised.

He said on several occasions, the ministry has head-hunted for specialists since it is provided for in the Standing Orders. 

He said the delays in recruitment process is not a creation of the Health Service Commission, but because some of the institutions that request for recruitment do not submit all the required documents in time.

As a result, Mr Okong revealed, this has created 1,200 vacancies in the first quarter of this financial year.

Mr Medard Ssegona, the PAC Central Government chairperson, however, said the issue is not the bureaucracy at the Health Service Commission, but failure to advertise for the required positions.

“To me, that’s not a big deal. If they had advertised, the process would have been completed long time ago. If they still insist on the bureaucratic system, to me it is okay, because it is the law, otherwise you would be picking your cousins and sending them there while others remain unemployed,” he said.

Mr Fredrick Angura, the Tororo South MP, asked the Commission to issue strict timelines for the recruitment process to ensure funds appropriated for human resource are utilised and also ensure Ugandans receive quality services from the hospital.

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