Ugandan Ministry of Health officials were on Thursday put on the spotlight to explain what happened to 3 billion shillings meant for recruitment of Doctors and critical health workers.
Appearing before the health committee, state minister for health Dr Elioda Tumwesigye stated that they needed 1.9 billion shillings to carry out a second phase of recruitment exercise to fill over 20,000 vacancies.
These included 378 vacancies for Mulago hospital, 50 for Butabika hospital, and 1,210 vacancies for 14 regional hospitals. Others are 2,849 vacancies for 48 general hospitals, 529 District health officers, and a total of 15,864 vacancies in health centres 4, 3, 2 and urban authorities.
The Ministry of Health officials since the last financial year have several times asked Parliament to allocate money for a second phase of recruitment for health workers.
On Thursday, Oyam South MP Betty Amongi raised a query on how the 3 billion shillings that women MPs forced President Yoweri Museveni to release for recruitment of health workers in the last financial year was used.
Aston Kajara, the state minister for privatisation, distanced himself from blame when he quickly stated that the money was released to the Ministry of Health, even though the officials had earlier stated that they did not have money for enhancement.
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Director General Health Services, then quickly consulted with the desk officer who confirmed that the planning department was aware of the money.
Last week, Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka told the committee that all monies meant for Ministry of Health were released on time.
Kenneth Mugambe, the Director for Budgeting at the Ministry of Finance, also added that out of the 49.5 billion shillings released for recruitment, 34 billion was not spent and was sent back to the consolidated fund, which means it can be accessed for fresh recruitment.
Dr Aceng also explained expenditure of the 49.5 billion saying only 6.5 billion shillings was given to the ministry of health. She said 43 billion shillings was sent to various districts for payment of salaries of the recruited health workers.
Out of the 6.5 billion, 3 billion shillings was for recruitment while 3.5 billion was to enhance salaries of Doctors who were already in service before the recruitment exercise.
Meanwhile the committee also heard that the Ministry of Health requires 43.1 billion shillings for retention packages for health workers. The package was introduced for medical officers at Health Centre Fours, where ten categories of key employees still require retention package.
The total number of filled positions in the health facilities is 11,132 while 2,306 are still vacant. This means that the total annual salary is 71.2 billion shillings with a total annual allowance of 17.3 billion shillings. To enhance their salary by 50 percent Dr Tumwesigye says they require an extra 43.1 billion shillings.
To enhance the salaries of medical officers in General hospitals by 1.5 million shillings, the ministry requires a total of 2.9 billion shillings annually. For district health officers, an enhancement of their salaries by 1.5 million shillings would cost the ministry 2 billion shillings.
Dr Christine Mwebesa, the deputy chairperson health service commission who kept shaking her head when the Ministry officials were submitting, asked why some staff in health centre Fours were not found.
In the last recruitment exercise, only 84 medical officers were hired together with 45 anesthetic officers, 35 public health nurses, 40 ophthalmic clinic officers and 25 theatre assistants. There are 170 health centres with theatres.
Dr Mwebesa put the blame on public service, explaining that employees who do post basic training such as anesthetic officers, public health nurses and ophthalmic clinic officers also do a public health diploma. However, upon competition of the public health diploma, Dr Mwebesa expressed disappointment that they are still brought back at a salary scale of U-5.
The other problem cited was the fact that government does not carry out training for theatre assistants which is done by Rubaga Hospital only.