By Mary Asujo
The Office of the Leader of Opposition in Parliament has protested the Health Ministry’s move to have pre-intern medics to pay for their internship placement, saying it is not only illegal but also discriminatory.
The medical interns in Uganda have been sidelined for over a year now with the ministry of health saying there are no funds to cater for their placement in hospitals yet it is a mandatory requirement before enrolling into medical practice.
The latest communication saw the Permanent Secretary Dr. Dian Atwiine okay an online application for medical interns who are willing to pay for their internship expenses.
However, the leader of opposition Mathias Mpuuga, in a statement presented by the shadow minister for health Dr. Timothy Batuwa, says the move is illegal and discriminatory as per Article 21 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the Employment Act, and the terms of deployment in the Public Service standing orders.
The LOP contends that the MOH decision to deploy interns at their own expense is ultra vires as the ministry can only change the terms and conditions of pre-medical interns’ deployment by amending the various laws.
“Dr. Diana Atwine has no powers to unilaterally change the terms and manner of deployment of pre-medical interns” Dr. Batuwa Lusala who read the statement said quoting the Section J (1) of the Public Service standing orders (2021) which compels government to work with training institutions, colleges and Universities to promote training programs for students to gain practical skills in the world of work in preperation for enrollment into the labour market.
It is also mandatory for government to deploy medical interns in government hospitals across the country, and with pay for their services.
Dr. Batuwa said the students who chose to pursue those professions did so on the representation of the laws of Uganda under the understanding that they will have to be paid for mandatory practical work.
“Government is estopped from changing the terms of training when these innocent people have acted on that information to pursue these courses” he remarked.
Kilak South MP, Hon. Gilbert Olanya said that Dr. Diana Atwine should apologise to Ugandans for making such statements and threatened to join the interns in the protests against government’s failure to deploy them.
“The Permanent Secretary to say that interns should pay for their internship is illegal. As MPs, we stand with the interns and will join them in demanding for their rights,” Olanya said.
The opposition warned government that such a move exposes the Ugandan taxpayer to unavoidable litigation that may see them lose a lot of money in compensation to the interns.
“I call upon government, to without delay, find resources for immediate deployment of all pre-medical interns who have spent a full year idling and losing precious time since they cannot practice their profession without the mandatory requirement as per the Employment Act and Public Service standing orders” LOP’s statement reads in part.