Medical interns in Uganda have withdrawn their labour from 29 regional hospitals citing failure by government to pay their outstanding allowances.
Dr Robert Lubega, the president Uganda Medical Interns Association says more than 800 intern doctors will not return to work to provide the much needed services until their monthly allowances for March and April are remitted and payment of arrears for intern doctors at Soroti regional referral hospital.
Lubega says more than 800 intern doctors and nurses have not been paid their allowances amounting to Shs 1.58 billion.
“Owing to the shortage of health workers in Uganda’s public health care facilities, medical interns provide the backbone of this public health human resource. Despite the plight of the medical interns for better welfare there have been persistent issues in regard to the remuneration, delayed payments and chronic lack of medical supplies amongst others,” Lubega states.
According to Lubega, only medical intern doctors from six sites of Lyantonde, Kagando and Entebbe hospitals, Mbarara, Jinja and Masaka regional referral hospitals have been paid their March and April allowances.
Last year, David Bahati, the state minister of Finance for Planning during the medical workers strike promised to provide a supplementary budget of Shs 2.4 billion to cater for the deficit that would come with maintaining medical interns at a gross pay of Shs 940,000 per medical intern. However the promise has not been effected.
Following this failure by government to fulfil the Shs 2.4 billion allowances promise, ministry of Health was tasked to reallocate and prioritise funds to cater for medical interns.
In an April 9, 2018 letter to Diana Atwiine, the permanent secretary ministry of Health, Matia Kasaija, the minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development approved the veriment to cater for shortfalls to cater for intern doctors’ allowances for 2017/18 financial year.
Over the last three years, the ministry of Health has been having a standard budget of Shs 9.3 billion for its medical interns. However, statistics show that the number of medical interns increased making the budget insufficient to cater for their welfare for the entire financial year.
This prompted the reduction of the amount payable to each medical intern to current average of Shs 756,000. As Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate International Labour Day today, Dr Aaron Nahabwe, the spokesperson of the medical interns said it was regrettable that they were being pushed to withdraw their labour force over poor welfare.