Nurses clash as medical records staff call off strike  

Mr President of Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union, Mr Justus Cherop Kiplangat (right), and Head of Administration Jolly Joe Ssonko, address the media at their offices in Mulago, Kampala, on April 19, 2022. PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • A section of nurses accuses the leadership of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union of incompetence and being compromised by government to frustrate the planned strike.

A row has erupted within the nurses and midwives fraternity over the right approaches to guarantee salary increment and the absorption of unemployed colleagues into public service.
A section of nurses accuses the leadership of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU) of incompetence and being compromised by government to frustrate the planned strike.

Ms Bonietor Amanya, a nursing officer at Mulago Hospital, in a telephone interview told this newspaper yesterday that it is absurd that the UNMU leadership has remained silent about issues affecting nurses.
“UNMU and Uganda Medical Association (UMA) are independent bodies. Whereas the UMA announced the strike, the nurses union is not supporting it. But the UNMU itself doesn’t care about the terminated Covid-19 contract workers,” she said. Nurses make up around 400 of the terminated workers. 

“We have written to them, we have called them and told them our problem but they have not responded. It is only the UMA that responded to us. UMA had doctors who are equally terminated. In this nation, only strikes are heard,” she added.
Ms Amanya was reacting to the pronouncement by Mr Justus Cherop Kiplangat, the President of Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU), that the union is considering peaceful engagement with the government.
 
Ms Amanya was among the nurses that joined UMA last week in announcing an industrial action on May 1 if government fails to clear the two months’ arrears for terminated medical workers and reabsorb all the terminated workers into the health system to fill the existing human resource gap of more than 19,000 workers. 
They were also demanding that salary increments must be made in the next financial year, a position government has challenged, saying the salary increment will be given in bits.

Mr Cherop told the media that the alleged complicity is a malicious statement, adding that salary increments are done through a regulated process of negotiation between the public sector labour union (PSLU) and the government.

“UNMU is one of the 11 trade unions in PSLU. Secondly, salary increment is also a factor of the performance of the national economy guided by the pay enhancement plan managed under the Ministry of Public Service in line with Section 6 of Public Service (Negotiable Dispute Settlement Machinery) Act 2008,” he added.

On the report that nurses and midwives are beginning their strike on April 25, Mr Cherop said the union has not planned anything like that.
“We want to assure our members and all responsible government ministries that this is not part of the plan by the Union leadership, for we didn’t issue any document for nurses and midwives to strike,” he said.

“Salary disparities are of continuing concern to UNMU. There are disparities between and within the nursing fraternity. There is also a continuous disparity between the nursing fraternity and the medical fraternity. UNMU aims to eliminate these disparities,” he said. 
Mr Cherop said a nurse with a degree gets Shs2m and a medical doctor with a degree gets around Shs4m, which signals that nurses are undervalued yet they spend around the same time in school to obtain a degree. 

“Schemes of work for all cadres are in need of urgent restructuring and updating. The current scheme of work is outdated, back to 1995. Restructuring of government facilities is an issue that UNMU is following. The current structure system is outdated,” he added. 
Mr Cherop said they need increment for nurses with degrees increased from Shs2 million to Shs4.8m as doctors get Shs5m in the next financial year.

Calling off strike
Mr Benard Atibu, the general secretary of Buhio Medical Coders Association, said they have paused their industrial action. 
“On April 1, the medical records and health information officers declared a strike which was countrywide. The strategies included that no registration of patients would take place in various triage or outpatient departments and there would be no submission of reports -the weekly report, monthly report, inpatient report and also the quarterly reports,” he said.

“This has not been done for the last 14 days and it has created a lot of impact on the reporting system whereby the reporting rate has been too low and the accuracy rate has been too low. But because the UNMU has come up and united us together, as the allied health professionals and has taken a lead to negotiate on our behalf, therefore, we are asking all the officers across the country to pause the industrial action a bit as we wait for peaceful negotiation with the stakeholders,” he said.
 

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