Over 2,000 medics remain unemployed, says doctors body

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In a statement, UMA president Herbert Luswata highlighted a significant shortage of healthcare professionals in government health facilities, particularly in doctor and nurse positions, where current staffing coverage ranges from 21 percent to 63 percent, averaging at 42 percent.

KAMPALA | The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) has revealed that more than 2,000 doctors in the country are currently unemployed, with only a small number managing to secure positions in the private sector or abroad, including specialist roles.

In a statement, UMA president Herbert Luswata highlighted a significant shortage of healthcare professionals in government health facilities, particularly in doctor and nurse positions, where current staffing coverage ranges from 21 percent to 63 percent, averaging at 42 percent.

Dr Luswata expressed concern over the unemployment situation.

"Three cohorts of medical doctors have completed their internships and obtained licenses since the recruitment suspension. Over 2,000 doctors remain unemployed,"he stated.

He called for the resumption of recruitment, promotions, and improvements in the internship and residency programs across the country.

Themedical association commended the government for lifting the temporary suspension on recruitment, which had severely impacted healthcare delivery.

The suspension resulted in delayed promotions for healthcare providers and hindered career progression for 5 to 15 years, despite meeting promotion requirements.

It also contributed to high levels of unemployment among doctors and other public health service cadres.

Dr Luswata provided details on the eligibility for promotions.

"Approximately 2,500 public service doctors are eligible for promotions to Medical Officer Special Grade, consultants, and senior consultants.

They work in Uganda's 18 regional and four national referral hospitals, with 60 percent eligible for MOSG promotion, 25 percent qualifying for Consultant promotion, and 15 percent eligible for Senior Consultant promotion," he said.

Hospitals most affected by the promotion delays include Kawempe National Referral Hospital, Kirudu National Referral Hospital, Kayunga, Moroto, Jinja, and Lira Regional Referral Hospitals.

The issue of unemployment among doctors has been exacerbated by the suspension of recruitment.

Despite a presidential directive to retain healthcare workers hired on contracts during the Covid-19 pandemic to address critical care needs in disciplines such as anesthesiology, psychiatry, and obstetrics and gynecology, this directive has not been fulfilled due to funding limitations.

Notably, the combined surplus budget of regional and national referral hospitals could cover salaries for over 1,000 additional healthcare workers annually.

Given these challenges, Dr Luswata urged regional and national referral hospital directors to promptly provide the Health Services Commission (HSC) with information on available positions for advertisement and recruitment.

This would help address the issues of unemployment and underemployment while facilitating promotions and career progression.

He called on Parliament to allocate a budget for doctor recruitment in local governments, particularly in health centers level three.

Dr Luswata suggested collaboration between Parliament, UMA, and stakeholders to establish an act governing internship and senior house officer terms of service.

This collaboration aims to put an end to recurring strikes by streamlining allowances for interns and residents and enhancing the quality of internships through proper supervision.

Dr Luswata believes that by resuming recruitment, addressing promotions, and improving intern/resident benefits, Uganda can take crucial steps towards building a more robust healthcare system and fostering a healthier nation.

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