Patients stranded as doctors strike

Some of the patients and attendants stranded as a result of doctors’ strike at Tororo District hospital. PHOTO/JOSEPH OMOLLO 

What you need to know:

  • Doctors want government to increase their salaries and improve working conditions.
  • UMA, however, insists that the strike will continue until their grievances are resolved.

Doctors countrywide yesterday went on strike protesting government’s failure to meet their demands that include pay rise.

The strike, which kicked off on Monday, follows the expiry of a 90-day ultimatum the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) had issued to government to implement President Museveni’s promise or they lay down their tools.

The medics also want government to improve the infrastructure in public health facilities such as intensive care units, ensure uninterrupted supply of medicines and personal protective equipment as well as avail more ambulances for Covid-19 case management, among others.

During our visits to the various health facilities, some patients were left unattended to. The UMA confirmed to Daily Monitor in an interview yesterday that only those doctors handling emergencies reported for work yesterday.

“Health services are paralysed. We are only covering emergency services and if you are doing that, it doesn’t mean that the whole hospital is functional,” Dr Herbert Luswata, the UMA general secretary, said in an interview.

At Tororo District hospital, Ms Idah Joan Abbo, a patient attendant, said no doctor had visited their ward.
Mr Walter Uryekwun, the Tororo District hospital senior administrator, said: “These [doctors] are grown-up people. Much as most of them turned up on duty, they are not working and I can’t force them. However, we have engaged them to be available to handle emergency cases, to which they have accepted.” 

At Mulago hospital, some patients were being served while others had not received medical care by around 11 am. Nurses and midwives, however, did not go on strike.

“The last time [doctors] saw patients was last week on Friday. I have also just seen those who are very sick and I am leaving. The impact will be more felt as days go by. Many medical workers who are around are interns,” Dr Shamim Namugerwa, a Master’s student training at Mulago, said.

However, Dr Rosemary Byanyima, the deputy director of Mulago hospital, said despite the conflicting accounts portrayed in the media, everything was moving on smoothly.

“We have already made ward rounds; patients have been attended to,” she said.

One of the senior doctors at Mulago hospital, who preferred anonymity,  said: “We are on strike but also watching the space.”

Salary scale
UMA accuses government of failure to implement an earlier agreement with President Museveni to have the salary for entry doctors increased to Shs5 million, senior medical consultants (Shs17m), and intern doctors (Shs2.5m).

Intern doctors currently earn Shs750, 000, entry-level doctors (Shs3m) and consultants (Shs7.3m).

Mr Cherop Justus Kiplangat, the president of Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU), yesterday appealed to the medical workers to refrain from participating in the strike.

“As UNMU, we shall engage with the government like we have always done, and we shall inform our members of the outcomes of such engagements. The decision shall be taken and the next course of action will be communicated,” he said.

At Mbarara and Lira regional referral hospitals, officials said doctors were attending to the patients.

Dr Johnson Kabwishwa, a medical superintendent at Kitagata Hospital in Sheema District, said: “For us, we are in the village and strikes normally are in towns, so our operations went on normally and we continued serving our people”.

Dr Alex Oula, the Medical Superintendent of Apac hospital, and Dr Margret Nanono, the deputy district health officer of Mpigi, said there was no strike.

UMA, however, insists that the strike will continue until their grievances are resolved.

Compiled by Joseph Omollo, Felix Ainebyoona, Bill Oketch, Beatrice Nakibuuka, Tonny Abet, Brianadams Kesiime.