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Doctors Blame Parliament, Ministries for Continued Strike

The strike began on November 22, after the government failed to fulfil many of its promises to medics, as made in 2017 during a similar strike. The doctors want the government to increase their salaries to 5 million Shillings, increase medical human resources and compensate health workers who succumbed to COVID-19.
Dr Herbert Luswata the Secretary General of UMA addressing journalists

Audio 3

Doctors under the Uganda Medical Association have asked parliament to address the deploring state of the health sector in the country. They say Parliament and government ministries are to blame for the continued strike which has left many Ugandans stranded without medical care.

The strike began on November 22, after the government failed to fulfil many of its promises to medics, as made in 2017 during a similar strike. The doctors want the government to increase their salaries to 5 million Shillings, increase medical human resources and compensate health workers who succumbed to COVID-19.

Since the start of the strike, the doctors have met officials from several government ministries, Members of Parliament and President Yoweri Museveni who issued a series of directives in response to the demands.

The President asked the Ministries of Health, Finance and the Office of the Prime Minister to compensate all doctors who succumbed to COVID-19, hire more doctors to address the 60 per cent employment gap in the health sector, ensure that there is a 10 per cent reduction in taxes paid by health workers, enforce salary increments of doctors and procure vehicles for consultant physicians.

The president also directed that the monies given to the National Medical Stores be increased so that enough drugs and sundries are procured for the country. The government was also directed to release the four billion Shillings for the doctors SACCO, n addition to tax exemptions on cars for medical doctors.

But the directives have not been implemented and the doctors now want to know why parliament seems to be dragging its feet on the matter that will see the strike called off. They also want the health ministry, finance and all other government agencies to start implementing the presidential directives.

Uganda Medical Association President Dr Samuel Oledo Odongo says that the Deputy Speaker of parliament Anita Annet Among needs to call for a sitting of parliament to address the demands of the doctors so that they can resume work. The call was made today during a press conference organised to mark the 14th day of the ongoing industrial action.

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The association leadership emphasised that not only doctors are affected by the slow implementation of presidential directives. Earlier this year, President Museveni directed that money be released to increase the salaries of medical interns who help run the health system.

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The doctors and the leadership of the medical interns now say they will not return to work unless the government addresses all their demands as directed by the president. As the strike goes on, patients at many health facilities in the country are facing the brunt.

At Kawempe National Referral Hospital that specialises in gynaecology and obstetrics, several expectant mothers were last week stranded at the facility and many of them told URN that even after going to the hospital as early as 6:30 a.m., they were not attended to. Dr Oledo urged members of parliament to stop the suffering of Ugandans whom they represent in Parliament.

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Dr Charles Ayume, the Koboko Municipality Member of Parliament and also the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee of Health told URN that they intend to hold a meeting with the UMA leadership next week in regard to the ongoing strike.