Government is set to amend the retirement age for health professionals from the mandatory 60 years to a further nine years (3-year term contracts). According to the minister of Public Service Wilson Muruli Mukasa, the country is facing a shortage of health specialists with very few graduating or even enrolling.
”One does not just finish the five years in medical school then is referred to as a specialist. It takes time for instance more than thirty years of further study and training to become one.”
Statistics from the ministry of Health site indicate that out of 688 approved positions of medical specialists, only 339 positions (49% of the approved structure) are filled.
Asked why a big number of specialists are leaving the country, the minister said government can’t afford to pay them the huge salaries that the professionals such as physiatrists, oncologists are seeking for in other countries.
Under the Public Service Standing Order 2010, government started reviewing the provision for employment of medical specialists in FY 2018/19, and is expected to be completed in FY 2019/2020 to accommodate new national and global trends.
Among the proposals for review; is the provision for employment of medical specialists beyond the mandatory retirement age of sixty years (60). The new provision provides for re-employment of public officers after the age of sixty years on contract terms if they possess rare skills and are still medically fit.
The main justification for this proposal is, the rapid growth of population against the slower production of medical specialities, and personnel resulting into urgent need to review the employment terms for medical specialists.
Other circumstances that also necessitated this review, is the advancement in healthcare that Uganda needs to adapt. Among the medical specialists that are going to be redeployed after their retirement age are; haematologists, anaesthetists, oncologists, psychiatrists, neuro-surgeons, pathologists and cardiologists among others. Each contract will be for duration of three (3) years each and will be eligible to a maximum of three (3) contracts.
“Shortage of specialists like psychiatrists in every regional hospital because it is not your everyday profession, it’s not by promotion or by force, it’s through willingness, apprentices, taking fellowships and by interest” said Catherine Bitarakwate permanent secretary, ministry of Public Service.
She argued that, “for the particular specialities where there is a gap, it is an advantage to the young ones because they can be trained and lifted to that level by the officer before he signs out.”
However, other cadres in the public service remain at the same mandatory retirement age of sixty years with exemption of judges.