Mubende Ebola medics give govt week to clear contracts, arrears

The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng and the US Ambassador in Uganda Ms Natalie E. Brown with other officials tour of the newly commissioned Ebola treatment centre in Mubende Municipality on November 1, 2022. PHOTO/DAN WANDERA

What you need to know:

  • The government extended the lockdown in Mubende and Kassanda Districts by another 21 days as health experts continue to monitor the spread of the disease.

Health workers at the Mubende Ebola treatment centre have given the government one week to sign their employment contracts and clear outstanding salary arrears or they will proceed with their planned strike.

Last Wednesday, the health workers had resolved to strike, but they called it off and gave the government up to December 2 to address their concerns.

 “We held a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Health and agreed to give them time up to Friday next week to provide contracts and also pay salaries of health workers  at the Ebola Treatment Centre,” Dr Edward Mutyaba, one of the health workers, said at the weekend.

“If they [government] fail to comply, our strike will resume immediately,” he added.

Dr Mutyaba said a total of 110 health workers have not been paid ever since they were transferred to Mubende.

“We feed ourselves and also pay accommodation bills. Some of our colleagues are being chased by landlords from their places of residence,” he said.

Mr Francis Machambala, their team leader, said the health workers on November 13 wrote to the commissioner in-charge of clinical service at the Ministry of Health about their grievances.

“Most of the health workers have families that have entirely been dependent on them and yet with no contracts, it means not even an allowance is provided to them and if it was to be provided, it will cater for the bills,” the letter reads in part.

“We kindly ask for an urgent solution on the above stated matters and request for very clear terms of service,” the letter adds.

However, the Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, asked the medics to be patient, saying their grievances are being addressed.

 “Their contracts have been prepared and they will be receiving them together with their money soon,” she said.

According to the district Ebola task force, Mubende has registered 63 confirmed Ebola cases, 29 confirmed deaths and 19 probable deaths. The district has registered 32 cumulative recovery cases. It also lost six health workers.

The government extended the lockdown in Mubende and Kassanda Districts by another 21 days as health experts continue to monitor the spread of the disease.

Background

Several health workers were called in as an emergency measure at the start of the Ebola outbreak two months ago. Uganda Medical Association Secretary General Herbert Luswata has urged the ministry to deal with the medical workers’ pay, saying the strike will derail efforts to fight Ebola in the district.

Dr Luswata said some health workers who were deployed by donors and other agencies such as the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) have been paid already. Others are not yet sure of who will pay them since the Ministry of Health had referred them to medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for allowances, however, MSF referred them back to the ministry.

He urged the government to at least avail the health workers of their contacts such that they can be clear on payment and other provisions such as how they will be compensated in an event that they get infected or how their families will be compensated in case they die in the line of duty.

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