Patients die at Mulago as medical interns strike

What you need to know:

  • Mr Robert Mbaziira, the uncle of the deceased, said they had been at the acute unit since morning but the child died before receiving treatment.

It is 4pm, a young man, who is unconscious, lies helplessly on the ground next to the entrance of the Paediatric Acute Unit of Mulago National Referral Hospital.

He had collapsed shortly after his 10-months-old son died before he was attended to by health workers.

Two other men remove his shirt which they use to fan him to regain his consciousness.

Besides him is his inconsolable wife, who is wailing.

Mr Robert Mbaziira, the uncle of the deceased, said they had been at the acute unit since morning but the child died before receiving treatment.

“We arrived here at around 11am. The child did not receive treatment. At around 3pm, the situation worsened. He started gasping for air. I informed one of the health workers and he told me to take him to the emergency room. I stood there for some time without being attended to. The child died in my hands,” Mr Mbaziira, a resident of Kiwenda Village, Wakiso District, said tears rolled down his cheeks.

When the Monitor talked to one of the health workers at the acute unit, who preferred anonymity, he admitted that the ongoing strike for medical interns has affected service delivery.

He said early in the day, a one-year-old baby girl had succumbed to severe malaria and acute pneumonia.

“The strike is affecting us. We are very thin on the ground yet we handle emergencies that must be attended to on arrival to save life. We work with about eight interns but all of them are on strike,” he said.

At the sickle cell clinic for children, a handful of health workers were pacing in wards to attend to patients.

“I’m supposed to be in class, but I’m doing the interns’ work because none of the three intern doctors showed up today,” a doctor, who is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Medicine, said.

“They help us do much. They take blood samples, monitor patients and administer treatment. Most of the work is done by interns. Doctors come in where they have failed. I don’t understand why doctors are striking when their salary was enhanced. We are breaking down because the workload is too much,” she added. At the Nutrition Unit, six intern doctors and two intern nurses did not show up.

“We had an emergency in the morning but we had no one to attend to it. I pleaded with them to save the situation and two intern doctors turned up. But they left immediately after attending to the child who was in a critical condition,” one of the managers of this unit, who preferred anonymous, said.

The acting executive director of Mulago Hospital, Dr Rose Mary Byanyima, said urged the ministries of Health and Education to address the interns’ concerns.

“At this rate, we are in trouble. It is a life bomb because we are all consumers of their services. The sister ministries, that is, Education and Health should discuss and come up with a solution,” Dr Byanyima said.

She asked the striking interns to change their attitude and focus on acquiring knowledge and saving lives.

More than 1,000 medical interns, including doctors, pharmacists, and nurses in government hospitals through their umbrella Uganda Medical Interns United (UMIU), went on strike yesterday over delayed payment, salary disparities, and other welfare issues.

The president of UMIU, Dr Leonard Mutebi, told this newspaper yesterday that the strike would continue until the salary scale for intern nurses and pharmacists is revised.

“The Ministry of Health has failed to solve the salary disparities that exist in the allowances of intern nurses, and pharmacists. According to last year’s presidential directive, the ministry was to pay interns half of what their established senior counterparts earn. The intern nurses and pharmacists continue to earn Shs1.5 million and Shs2m instead of Shs2.4 million and Shs2.5 million respectively,” he said.

“The salary for intern doctors was enhanced. We are paying a gross of Shs2.5m which comes to about Shs1.8m after taxes. But since we are members of UMIU, we will continue laying down our tools as we stand in solidarity with the nurses and pharmacists whose salary has not been revised,” he said.

Addressing journalists in Kampala on Sunday, Ms Prossy Nakyanzi, the spokesperson of Intern Pharmacists of Uganda, said the ministry has not honoured the President’s directive.

“The nurses receive Shs4.8m, meaning the intern in that category was supposed to receive Shs2.4m, but to our dismay, the intern doctors and dentists earn Shs2.5m, we are getting Shs2m without explanation and the nurses were given Shs5m,” she added.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, said interns should resume work since their concern would be addressed.

“These discrepancies will be addressed by the government,” Mr Ainebyoona said.

On the issue of their quarterly allowances, Dr Mutebi confirmed that their money had been deposited on hospital accounts and were waiting for it to be transferred on the individual accounts of intern health workers.


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