Intern doctors strike leaves regional hospitals in crisis

Medical interns kneel in the middle of a road in Kampala during their protest in December 2021.. PHOTO / FILE

What you need to know:

  • The interns in the category of doctors, pharmacists and nurses, who announced their intention to strike last week, are demanding salary arrears for three month.

Regional referral hospitals across the country have experienced a big setback in the deliverance of medical care to patients as intern doctors lay down their tools over unpaid emoluments.

The interns in the category of doctors, pharmacists and nurses, who announced their intention to strike last week, are demanding salary arrears for three month.

 At Soroti Regional Referral Hospital, there was no sign of intern doctors on duty apart from students from Soroti University who were seen attending to patients in the various wards as part of their study practical.

 The Soroti Regional Referral Hospital director, Dr Ben Watmon, said the students from Soroti University were attending to patients as part of their usual training course.

 “This is a teaching hospital for the university where the medical students are supposed to learn medicine,” he said.

 Dr Watmon declined to comment on the strike.

 One of the mothers at the hospital, Ms Jessica Asio, said she was waiting for the doctors to attend to her baby.

 Dr Oscar Atwiine, the chairperson for intern doctors at Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital, there were 47 intern doctors at the facility who also joined the strike yesterday. He added that they were only attending to emergencies at the ward.

 Dr Atwiine said they gave the Ministry of Health a three-day ultimatum to address their grievances, saying if the ministry fails to do so, they will also stop attending to emergencies.

“At this time I am supposed to be at the ward but we have decided to join our colleagues in a sit down strike,” he said.

Dr Atwiine said the Ministry of Finance released funds to the Ministry of Health but the latter delayed to pay the intern doctors, adding that by last quarter they were demanding one month salary arrear.

“We were not paid in September, we are in the new quarter. We are now demanding three months,” he said.

He said according to President Museveni’s directive, each intern doctor is supposed to receive half allowance of his senior who is a medical officer currently receiving Shs5.4 million and an intern is supposed to be paid Shs2.7 million but they are paid Shs2.5 million.

“The Shs2.5 million I am getting they are taxing it by 30 percent and I remain with Shs1.8 million,” Mr Atwiine said.

In Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, operations at several units (wards) like the outpatients’  department (OPD), children’s ward, surgical ward and the ART clinic were affected.

 At the OPD, a queue of patients, who lined up to wait for treatment, was yet to be attended to by 11 am.

Ms Vicky Ayat, one of the expectant mothers in the maternity ward, who had been turned away by the health workers, said she had been told that there is no equipment at the hospital to attend to them.

Ms Christine Atim, a mother who brought her four-year-old son with a swollen neck and gum for treatment, said: “I arrived here at 8:30am and the nurses are telling us that they are still waiting for the doctors to arrive.”

At Aywee Health Centre IV in Gulu East Division, work was going on normally in all the facility’s departments.

The Kabale Regional Referral Hospital director, Dr Filbert Nyeko, said although a total of 35 interns that includes 14 nurses and midwives, 10 pharmacists and 11 doctors did not show up to work on Monday, there was no crisis.

 “There is a need for being patient with the government instead of striking every time. Salaries for the striking interns are ready with us at the facility but they are nowhere to be seen. There is no crisis at the hospital because our staff are managing the situation,” Dr Nyeko said.

The district health officers for Rukiga, Rubanda and Kanungu said health services were going on normally because they do not have intern doctors in their facilities.

 “We are not affected by the striking interns because we do not have any in our facilities, ” the Kanungu health officer, Dr Birungi Mutahunga said.

By Simon Peter Emwamu , George Muron ,Alex Ashaba,  Joanita Adong , Tobbias Jolly Owiny, Robert Muhereza & Naume Biira


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