Doctors issue fresh warning to govt over delayed pay rise

Surgeons at Soroti Regional Referral Hospital conduct an operation on conjoined twins in March last year.Health workers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), have issued a fresh ultimatum to government over pay rise.  PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The president of Uganda Medical Association says some officials in the Ministry of Health are working to sabotage the plan to increase doctors’ salaries.

Health workers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), have issued a fresh ultimatum to government over pay rise. 

Addressing journalists in Kampala yesterday, the UMA explained that they suspended the strike last year after reaching an agreement with government that their salaries and other allowances would be increased in the next financial year.

However, Dr Samuel Odongo Oledo, the president of UMA, said he had been informed that Ministry of Health had not yet submitted the budget for the salary increment of doctors and other health workers.

“There have been different engagements and we hope that in the budget of 2022/2023, doctors’ welfare and that of health workers will be included. However, we pass this as a painful statement, come May 1, 2022, if these directives are not included in the budget framework, doctors will have no choice but to go for a full blown national industrial action which we do not want to be part of,” he said.

He added: “The Ministry of Finance made it clear that Ministry of Health had not yet submitted the budget. So we expect the Ministry of Health to work with Ministry of Finance to make sure they submit the budget for welfare, and drugs of the doctors and hospitals. This stepwise increase that was suggested is uncouth, not allowed and we reject it.”

Dr Oledo said a number of officials at the Ministry of Health are working to sabotage the presidential directive and want to increase the salaries over the next five years as has been the case in the past.

“Right now we are on operation save Ugandans’ lives and the soldiers on the ground to carry out this operation are the doctors and health workers so their welfare that was increased must not meet any [hurdle] and we expect 10 percent PAYE (Pay As You Earn) on this money,” he said.

He said the issue of taxing the allowances at only 10 percent was agreed upon with President Museveni, who issued a directive that starting from July last year, all the allowances for the doctors should be taxed at 10 percent and not 30 percent as has been the case. 

“I got information that the private not for profit hospitals including Nsambya Hospital and Naguru hospital gave 10 percent taxation, implementing presidential directives. Such directors should be put in different government offices because they know what it means to implement a presidential directive,” he said.

Dr Oledo, however, remained optimistic that Ministry of Health will heed to their demands and the presidential directives and effect the pay-rise as agreed upon.

“We request the Parliamentary Health Committee, and the Parliamentary Budget Committee to ensure that this is prioritised on the Budget Paper Framework for 2022/2023, to be effected in full as was directed by the President, and not in a phased manner as has been stated by some government Officials,” he said.

It has also emerged that at least 2,000 positions for doctors have remained vacant in different government health facilities in the country, which the UMA said must be filled.

Dr Oledo said they had several engagements with the Ministry of Health officials over the same and expects action this time. 

He said doctors are being overworked because of the few numbers and yet Ministry of Health continues to return unspent money meant for recruitments to the treasury.

“We expect the recruitment of doctors this financial year. We expect the Ministry of Health to budget and factor in the gaps which have not been filled up. We have more than 80 doctors who have died and the vacancies have never been filled up. We have 2,000 vacancies of doctors not occupied, leave alone the health centre III implementation strategies announced by the President,” he said.