On Tuesday, the Executive Membership of the Uganda Medica Association (UMA) was summoned to State House Entebbe in the period of their industrial action.
The meeting which according to sources started around midday took a whole 6 hours as both parties went through one issue into another.
The Doctors led by Sam Oledo, the president of the Association aired out their grievances which ranged from lack of employment for their qualified colleagues, a delayed speed of promotions in government hospitals, lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), and the rest of the content was about welfare and remuneration.
Oledo in a 1-hour long presentation expressed to President Museveni the dire situation of medical doctors, and health practitioners in the country, at each end his colleagues applauded pleasantly.
Indeed, when it was his turn to reply, President Museveni remarked: “You people chose a good person to speak in this young man Oledo, I spoke to him even on phone initially and he was expressing your issues perfectly.”
Museveni would later on state that remuneration and enhancement of salaries have always been his idea and he agrees with the scientists on this.
Regarding the employment of doctors, Museveni said all medical doctors should be employed by the government once they complete their studies.
“The Ministry of Health should move forward with the program of employing more health personnel. The government is fully committed to personnel protection while they perform their duties. We have the role of providing personal protection equipment. It is logical to provide the essential medical facilities as opposed to giving out risk allowances,” he added.
Museveni reiterated that the newly qualified medical doctors were assured of a salary of Ush 5 million per month with effect from the 2022 -2023 financial year and said there is no need to create friction while following up the matter of an enhanced salary.
President Museveni informed the delegation that today Uganda was enjoying stability because they are working under the policy of prioritization. He reminded them that there was a need to create a minimum base for stability.
The President said that the NRM Government would work out a system where the enhanced salaries would not be compromised by an unfriendly income tax policy and that the income tax policy would be revised so that the salaried workers are not disadvantaged.
President Museveni said that he would push to continue with the medical students and scientists being given priority of 70% of the scholarships in public universities and pledged to provide a facility of tax-free vehicles to medical doctors starting from the next financial year.
The President urged the doctors to work and ensure that they achieve the goal of preventing diseases noting, that it was more effective and affordable to take disease preventive measures and avoid the practice of waiting to attend to patients. He said that the government would work with the army to build institutional houses for the medical personnel.
At the dying embers of the meeting, President Museveni hinted that he would avail cars for the senior medical officers while also working out a transport system for the other health officers with support from the government.
He was very particular regarding housing, adding that with the help of the NEC, they would construct standard houses for medical personnel near hospitals, to cure the ailment of absenteeism and transport.
At this point, the members stood up and gave him a standing ovation.
The President of Uganda Medical Association, Dr. Sam Oledo thanked President Museveni for attending to their requests and for his outstanding role especially towards eliminating Covid-19 and terrorism. He thanked the President for establishing an effective ambulance service and observed that the President has scored big particularly in the elimination of malaria and the guinea worm.
Oledo continued and said from what they had heard from President Museveni, he and his team would relay it to their members and generate feedback.
He however added thus:
“Your excellency, from what we have discussed here, I am sure even the blind doctor will cross the road. We can assure you we shall work,” he said.
This was before President Museveni interjected to assure the doctors that he would even send them the days minutes in his own ink as a form of commitment, and at that, the meeting was concluded on a high with Dr. Diana Atwine calling for doctors to start work with the same enthusiasm with which they were making demands.
However, an hour after the meeting was done and dusted, UMA released a statement indicating they were not calling off their industrial action.
In a statement dated November 23, 2021, UMA President Dr. Odongo Samuel Oledo and Secretary-General Dr. Herbert Luswata said that they will “await implementation of the key items agreed on” before calling off the strike.
The UMA leadership confirmed the meeting with Museveni but said that they will not end their strike if nothing tangible is delivered on their table.
“We are waiting for a commitment from the government, implementation plan, and tangible deliverables. Until then, we maintain the status quo in regards to the Industrial Action,” the letter reads in part.
UMA said that they remain committed to “quality healthcare and welfare of medical doctors in Uganda.”
While announcing the strike earlier this week, UMA President Dr. Luswata said that “We don’t want signed papers, we don’t want promises, we don’t want meetings. This time all we want is money in our accounts or else we won’t come back to work.”
The unresolved grievances of the medical workers fronted by their umbrella organization, UMA, have continued to stifle Uganda’s health sector.
A number of patients have been left stranded at hospitals and health centres with no one to attend to them.