Uganda’s main Opposition political party, National Unity Platform (NUP), expressed their solidarity with intern doctors who have for weeks maintained a nationwide sitdown strike protesting poor pay and an unfavourable working environment among other things.
In a statement posted on the party’s website, NUP president Robert Kyagulanyi says it is unfair that despite attending to more than 70% of the patients in public health facilities for treatment, and enduring a huge workload, Medical Interns in Uganda are poorly renumerated and unable to cater for their basic needs in life.
Kyagulanyi also known as Bobi Wine, criticized the decision by government to sack the health workers “engaged in Constitutionally-protected industrial action” saying the move is manifestly illegal and highhanded. He says the move is an intimidation tactic calculated to silence debate about the unhealthy state of Uganda’s public health facilities and the indecent working conditions in which the selfless health professionals work.
On 6 November 2021, Medical Interns in Uganda went on strike protesting Government’s failure to honor promises of improved renumeration dating back several years. These were later joined by senior doctors who also demanded governments deliverly on promises it has been making over the years to provide them with adequate medical supplies, improve their welfare and working conditions, and employ idle doctors in the several unfilled vacancies.
“On behalf of the National Unity Platform, and on my own behalf, I assure health workers across the country that we stand in solidarity with you. We unreservedly support your patriotic quest to improve the state of our national health facilities as well as those who work or seek treatment from there.” Kyagulanyi’s article posted on NUP website reads in part.
In June this year, Government officials met with the leadership of the Medical Interns to chat a way forward on the matter regarding their renumeration and made to them several commitments to pay at least UGX 1.5M for graduate nurses, UGX 2M for graduate pharmacists and UGX 2.5M for graduate medical doctors effective 1st July. These promises were however not kept prompting the interns laid down their tools in early November.
Despite consultations and back-to-back meetings between the Uganda Medical Association and authorities in government, little has been achieved as health workers maintain the strike. The latest attempt by medical interns to petition parliament (on Wednesday) resulted into the arrest of doctors by police. The protesting medics numbering about 25 were bundled on police pick-up vehicles and detained for hours before they were released without charge.
Kyagulanyi said the exploitative conditions in which health workers in Uganda are forced to operate, endanger the very lives they are expected to protect, and expose them to professional negligence claims.
“…and despite working day and night for nearly the entire week, the interns are paid a gross salary of only UGX 750,000/= to cater for their transport, meals, accommodation and general upkeep. The failure to provide medical insurance for health workers, exacerbated by the perennial lack of personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies has seen over 50 frontline health workers succumbing to COVID19. ..It must be resisted” He said.
“I wish to also remind the nation that one of the core pledges we have made as the National Unity Platform is to revamp the health care sector completely. The money General Museveni’s regime spends on corruption and excessive spending can definitely improve social services so that our people live better lives.” Kyagulanyi stated.
Hospitals need interns since there are few doctors and nurses in hospitals.