Medics table fresh demands as Ugandans protest poor state of health facilities online

The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) has issued fresh demands and recommendations aimed at improving the welfare of medics.

The association also explained the urgent need for the deployment of interns, senior house officers, saying the huge gap in Uganda of one doctor to 20,000 patients is partly covered by medics.

On Monday, police in Kampala apprehended over 30 medical interns who have been protesting at Parliament over the Ministry of Health’s failure to deploy them to government hospitals.

Pre-medical interns held a protest march this morning (Photo by Francis Isaano)

The interns, who were carrying placards with protest messages, were intercepted on their way to Parliament and the President's office, where they planned to hand over petitions detailing their grievances.

The demonstration of the medical interns came as Ugandans protested the poor state of health facilities and challenges in accessing services in the country, in a virtual campaign that started on Monday. The campaign is dubbed Uganda Health Exhibition.

In a statement, the president of UMA, Dr. Edith Nakku said a good number of recently graduated medical students, also referred to as pre-interns, concluded their education successfully in February 2023 and  have since been waiting at home for 8 months to join medical internship to work under supervision, get their full licenses and start working on their own.

She said junior house officer/medical internship is a mandatory stage for graduated medical doctors, nurses and pharmacists to work in the world. Thereafter, they become fully licensed.

Nakku said these medics carry 60%-70% of the workload in government and private hospitals in Uganda, noting that there should not be any delay in the licensing of capable and skilled medical doctors in a country where they are so needed.

 

On an individual level, she said many of the junior medical doctors are from peasant families who cannot afford even medical training and expecting them to work for free is not fair or just.

She said many have been on scholarships or paid their way through school and born from peasant parents who had to spend years to save or take loans. 

“UMA has noted with the utmost concern the presentation of the Hon. Minister of Health on 5th April 2023, where she informed the Parliament about budget cuts in the Ministry of health budget and lack of money to pay medical interns/junior house officers and Senior House Officers (SHOs) for the financial year 2023/2024,”she said.

She said they have also noted that the Ministry of Finance has decided to cut the health budget even more from the paltry 7.1% to the current 5.1%.

The Abuja declaration to which Uganda is signatory requires that at least 15% of any national budget should be used to cover health costs. Uganda is way below that and the Ministry of Finance has recommended even further cuts which is very unfortunate.

Nakku said up to date, the Ministry of Health has not included or budgeted payments of the junior doctors/interns and SHOs in its national health budget for the year 2023-2024.

She requested that the health budget should not be reduced anymore because it is already too low.

“U.M.A recognises the need and calls for the regulated entry of medical students into medical schools in order to maximise the good quality of graduating medical doctors and UMA calls for the regulated entry and exit of excellent medical doctors that will serve Ugandans for best health,” she said.

The association recommended that given this crisis, there be an urgent short and long term review of medical education and training in Uganda by relevant ministries including ministry of health, education among others

It  recommended a standardised curriculum across the board for all medical doctor training Universities whether private or public.

“UMA again calls for the urgent deployment of the medical doctor interns for 2023/2024 to ensure the continued efficient health service to the public and urgently calls upon Parliament to not cut the health budget because it is already too low and provide the necessary funds to Ministry of Health through the health budget of 2023/2024 to pay medical interns and SHOs,”said Nakku.

Nakku said there should be pre-entry exams into medical schools at all universities both public and private that should be standardised and applied to all medical school applicants in all universities.

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