Senior doctors join medical interns strike

Medical interns during a strike in 2017. Senior House Officers (specialising doctors) from Makerere and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) have resolved to join the strike by doctors and medical interns until government fulfils its pledges to them. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The specialised doctors also condemned the firing of the medical interns.

Senior House Officers (specialising doctors) from Makerere and Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) have resolved to join the strike by doctors and medical interns until government fulfils its pledges to them.

In a December 13 statement, Mr Asaph Owamukama, the Senoir House Officer representative to the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), said:  “The issues that have been repeatedly raised by Uganda Medical Association including inadequate medical supplies and equipment, underprivileged working conditions as well as poor remuneration are bonafide and affect us as well.” 

“This is, therefore, to bring to your attention that Senior House Officers will be joining the strike effective December 15 and will continue to abide by directives from UMA,” Mr Owamukama added.

Mr Owamukama, however, said they will only handle emergencies at Mulago, Kawempe, and Kiruddu hospitals as guided by UMA.

The chief resident of MUST, Mr Brian Ssenkumba, also notified their dean of Faculty of Medicine that their strike has commenced.

This comes three days after the Ministry of Health fired all the striking medical interns and ordered them to leave government hospital premises within the week to pave way for new entrants slated to join in January 2022.

Mr Owamukama condemned the firing of the medical interns and demanded that the decision be reversed within two days’ time.

Health rights’ activists have also threatened to sue government if it does not rescind the dismissal of the medical interns to allow dialogue.

According to a December 13 press statement from the Centre for Health Human Rights & Development (Cehurd), the Ministry of Health failed to resolve grievances that led to the strike and resorted to unlawful and irregular means of solving lawful industrial action.

“We hereby request that the directive be recalled within a period of two days. Failure of this, we will be forced to seek redress from courts of law,” the press statement reads in part.

“We have, therefore, issued this request to the director general of Health Services, a copy is copied to the Attorney General, as a notice of our client’s intention to sue if the said irregular and illegal directive by yourself is not recalled within the time herein,” it added.

However, the Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, said government is yet to come out with a final plan on what it intends to do.

“Senior doctors who want to join the strike are free to do so because it is their decision. Those who feel like they should work, let them continue working. Government will also come out with its plans,” Dr Aceng said yesterday while launching a mass vaccination campaign in Mbarara District.

Ms Aceng asked the interns, who are “remorseful”, to return to their workstations and complete their training because the government will pay them in a week.

“We must take note that internship is a training period. It is not work and these interns are not public servants. They are free to make any decision not to train because they are the ones to lose, not us. My advice to them is that they should stop misbehaving and let the government fulfil its pledge,” Ms Aceng said.

“The process for their supplementary budget was completed and their money will be ready in one week and the money will be on their account,” Dr Aceng added.

Some of the doctors’ demands
After a meeting with President Museveni on December 2, Dr Herbert Luswata, the general secretary of UMA, said the President had agreed to enhance doctors’ salaries in the next financial year and give each doctor a tax-free vehicle.

Mr Museveni reportedly also ordered the minister of Health to ask for all the money she needs to address the problem of unreliable supply of personal protective equipment for health workers.

UMA said in the President’s commitment, the salary of medical officers will be 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).