Nurses reject 12-hour work plan

Mulago nurses and other health personnel at a workshop in Kampala recently. PHOTO BY JOSEPH KIGGUNDU

What you need to know:

Constrained. The Mulago hospital health staff say extending the working hours from eight to 12 is unbearable since they are few compared to the workload.

A crisis looms at Mulago National Referral Hospital after it emerged that nurses are dissatisfied with ‘fresh’ guidelines instituted by the Executive Director, Dr Byaruhanga Baterana.

The guidelines will now see the nurses start working 12 hours a day instead of eight.

The health workers, who live in staff quarters, will also start paying electricity bills.

It is said power at the quarters was disconnected by Umeme last September over non-payment of accumulated bills.

The nursing school adjacent to the hospital also suffered troubled times after Umeme cut off power over non-payment, forcing students to go on strike and petition Parliament.

A few nurses, who talked to the Daily Monitor , said meetings are being held over extending their working hours.

“We are few compared to the cases we handle. One can easily make a mistake if we are overburdened with duty. We find ease working in shifts like in many other hospitals,” a senior nurse, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal, said.

When contacted, the hospital spokesperson, Mr Enock Kusasira, dismissed the complaints as ‘petty’, saying extending their working hours was not a directive but a proposal.

“It is being discussed with them because it is a public service provision- ask the public service for answers,” Mr Kusasira said before he hang up.
However, the public service standing orders, which he referred to, states that the official working hours are 10 hours (from 8am to 5pm) for all officials, except in cases of an emergency service.

A nurse said they have been in darkness since September.
“Since the hospital has failed to pay the bills, we are being asked to contribute from Shs10,000 onwards depending on how much one affords,” she said.

The medical personnel, however, could not readily tell how many of them live in the staff quarters and how much arrears the hospital management owes Umeme.

Another nurse accused Dr Baterana of threatening to ‘force out’ those who refuse to contribute money to have the staff quarters reconnected.
Dr Baterena was not available for comment, but in an interview with New Vision, he said all staff would start paying their utility bills.
He said the hospital owes Shs7.5 billion in power arrears to Umeme.
If effected, the proposal would ensure that staff quarters do not share utility meters with the hospital.

Like most hospitals countrywide, Mulago suffers from staff shortage. One nurse at the facility, according to insider statistics, is expected to care for 100 acute patients on almost a daily basis.