President Museveni has justified a move for the country to hire 200 Cuban doctors, saying he was angered by the “bad behaviour” of their Ugandan counterparts.
Early this month, the minister for public service, Muruli Mukasa announced that government had reached a deal to hire 200 Cuban doctors with the intent of filling the gap of inadequate medical specialists in the country. The Cuban doctors would then be deployed in regional referral hospitals where there is a shortage of specialists and paid Shs 5.4m each ($1500).
Consequently, medics under their umbrella body Uganda Medical Association and Ugandans at large scoffed at government over the decision saying it was not possible to achieve its desired target when a litany of issues have since not been resolved in the sector, especially remuneration for medical officers.
However, Museveni while speaking at national labour day celebrations in Ssembabule lashed out at the doctors for trading “nonsense talk”. He said the doctors wanted to blackmail him.
“I want to bring Cuban doctors because our doctors behaved very bad, and unprofessional. They started striking, incited other doctors and left our patients to die. They were blackmailing us,” an angry Museveni said.
Museveni pointed out one of the doctors who during the strike was involved in an accident which necessitated medical attention, “now where was he going to get the help yet they were on strike?” he wondered.
“They are selfish people, we can not tolerate them, we fought for no pay for many years, when we got victory we were working for low pay, these soldiers have been fighting and working for either no pay or low pay, why do they never go on strike?” Museveni said.
“A doctor who goes on strike is not a doctor, he is an enemy of our people and we shall treat him as such. Infact I wanted to go back to the bush but I was restrained,” he added.
President Museveni was in lashing mood, he then moved to the teachers whom he claimed were carrying nonsense arguments over the recent decision by cabinet to raise salaries for their science counterparts.
“I don’t want to hear that nonsense; we the freedom fighters have been working for the last 50 years for no pay but I am here. I heard some people talking nonsense, if you increase the salary for a science teacher I will get low as the head teacher, that is your problem,” he said.
“I am the president of Uganda, I get a low pay, Shs3.6m, this I accepted in 1996 because the MPs tricked me. I was getting Shs150,000 before. Authority does not depend on salary; I have authority even with the low pay. Don’t bring those nonsensical arguments,” he added.
“We are not against paying the others but if we don’t have enough money now, should we say that we pay no body? Or if we have some money whom do we start with, we chose science people because it is very difficult to retain them,” he said.
Museveni’s comments were sparked by National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) chairman general Usher Wilson Owere who had implored him to reconsider on the Cuban Doctors issue and also called upon the President to increase salaries for workers
“Why don’t we pay that Shs 5million (meant for Cuban doctors) to Ugandan health workers? These people in government are looking for kickback and not improving service delivery. We should ensure public servants are well paid and motivated.We know you mean well for this country and I hope you won’t be misled,” he said.
Owere asked the Permanent Secretary in the Health Ministry Dr. Diana Atwiine to work with the doctors in a harmonious way.
“We have many specialists here and if they are stubborn we only need to reprimand them other than importing Cuban doctors,” he added.
Museveni was quick to lash out at NOTU leader Wilson Owere, whom he said should use experience to justify calls for salary increments. Museveni said that salaries must be talked about in a whole context and not in isolation. He asked people to wait for infrastructure for pay raise.
“Owere is saying I should stop making roads and give people salary, I am telling him that we don’t have that money yet.”