Doctors working in Ugandan public hospitals have resolved to go on strike starting Monday over low salaries and shortages of essential supplies, a spokesman said.
Medical doctors resolved to resume the strike after failing to strike a compromise with government. This resolution was reached at an extra ordinary meeting held in Davis Lecture Theatre DLT at Mulago hospital in Kampala this morning under their umbrella Uganda Medical Association (UMA).
During the stormy meeting, the doctors accused government of failing to show seriousness in handling their demands for a pay rise and improved working conditions.
They also want government to enhance their allowances including overtime, housing, transport and medical risk among others. Prior to the resolution by the medics, the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda assured them that government was committed to improving their welfare following a meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and their representatives in Mid-October.
Rugunda asked the medics to suspend their industrial action pending another meeting with the president, but the medics booed him down.
Following the disagreement, Dr. Mukuzi Muhereza, the General Secretary UMA read out the general guidelines for the industrial action by the health workers.
He asked the medical workers to work as a team and keep everyone in the loop to ensure they are clear about the objectives of the industrial action.
Prof Francis Omaswa from the Medical Elder’s Forum appealed to the medical workers to take the offer by government and wait to meet the president again, a proposal they rejected out rightly.
Dr. Ekwaro Obuku, the President Uganda Medical Association, said they would only stop their struggle for better welfare that started in 1996 when they get tangible results from government.
The doctors want government to increase the salary of medical interns from Shillings 960,000 to Shillings 8.5 million. They also medical assistant and teaching assistants to earn Shillings 15 million, get a two-bedroom house and a 2.5cc vehicle.
They also want government to pay a senior consultant doctor or professor Shillings 48m including allowances; provide him a five-bedroom house, 4.0cc vehicle and three domestic workers.
Currently, a senior consultant doctor earns about Shs3.4 million, consultant Shs2.6m, and a medical officer Shs1.1 million.
The doctors also want salaries for nurses and midwives enhanced to about Shs6.5 million besides providing them a three-bedroomed house, 2.0cc vehicle and one domestic worker.
Dr. Obuku appealed to the president to disband the State House Health Monitoring Unit and replace it with the health professional council.
Dr. Byaruhanga Baterana, the Executive Director, Mulago National Referral Hospital, says he will put in place measures to handle all emergence cases to ensure the strike doesn’t affect service delivery.
David Bahati, the Planning State Minister told URN that they had just met the president who insisted that the medical worker’s issues would be resolved after the harmonization process is done.
He said government will continue appealing to the medical workers to return to work as government finalizes its process of salary harmonization.
The last such national strike by doctors was more than 20 years ago, said Faustus Kavuma of the Uganda Medical Association, although local strikes are frequent.
“The lack of supplies and equipment in the hospitals … should stop,” he said. “Our remuneration is very poor.”
He said doctors lacked necessities like gloves, painkillers and disinfectant. An entry-level doctor in public healthcare in Uganda earns about 1.1 million shillings ($300) per month. A senior physician takes home about 3.4 million.
The National Organization of Trade Unions has asked the president to meet the Medical workers Union over the medical workers’ strike instead of dealing with just a few individuals.
The Chairman General of Union Usher Wilson Owere says president Museveni must meet the workers union to resolve their grievances without politicizing the matter.
Earlier, the Medical workers Union said it was not party to the looming strike which the Uganda Medical Association is spear heading saying it is illegal.
On October 9th the doctors had resolved to lay down their tools following government’s alleged failure to respond to their call for salary and allowance review, improved working condition among other issues.
Now according to Dr. Brian Kasagga the association spokesperson they have met several government officials including the president and today’s meeting is meant to brief all members about the developments and agree on the way forward.
Diana Atwine, permanent secretary at the ministry of health, told Reuters the government was willing to raise doctors’ salaries and address their other concerns but they should be patient.
“The problem requires a comprehensive approach because it’s not only medical doctors that are not well paid. All civil servants are not well paid,” she said.
A committee had been instituted, she said, to asssess all public workers’ pay and make recommendations.
Last month, the government gave lawmakers an extra one-off payment of $8,000 to hold consultations on the bill to extend the president’s rule. MPs already receive about $5,900 per month.