Gov’t on its knees as striking medical workers insist on industrial action

What was supposed to be a meeting to solve the ongoing impasse brought about by the striking medical workers who demand better pay from government turned sour as cabinet ministers left embarrassed.

A total of 6 ministers who are part of the cabinet taskforce meant to dialogue over the medical workers’ concerns including; Dr.Ruth Aceng(Ministry of Health),David Bahati(Finance),John Chrysestom Muyingo(Education), David Karubanga(Public service),William Byaruhanga(Attorney General) and Mwesigwa Rukutana(Deputy Attorney General) begun the meeting with apologizing to the medical workers over their plight.

“As a medical doctor, I know the situation and challenges you are going through and government is committed to solving it,” Dr.Ruth Aceng, the health minister told the medical doctors and nurses who had attended the meeting.

In what looked like a down to knees manner by government, the State Minister for Higher Education J.C Muyingo told the striking medical workers that government would do all it takes to ensure their plight is highlighted before asking them to return to work.

Taking off the coat of the minister, Muyingo begged the doctors to scale down on their demands to those that are realistic and can be achieved by government.

Minister of Health, Dr Ruth Aceng addresses medical doctors.

“I am not talking to you as a minister but as a teacher, parent and colleague. As a teacher, I have seen so many of you go through my hands and I decided we must interface with each other,” Muyingo said in a humbled tone.

In a sweet talking tone and manner, Muyingo equated the striking medical practitioners to soldiers at the forefront during a war adding that the moment they withdraw from the frontline (hospitals), the country will have lost the war.

“You can’t withdraw your services because the country would be in danger. We value your work and your concerns are correct. Government is accepting to address your concerns but we ask you to return to work.”

One by one, all government speakers seemed remorseful and apologetic to the medical workers and promised that government was working on their issues.

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga cleared the air over the recent communication from the health ministry in regards to the legality of the medical workers’ strike. Recently, the minister for Health Dr.Ruth Aceng said the medical doctors’ association was illegal.

However, in a manner that showed that government had learnt its mistake, the Attorney General, who is the chief government lawyer said the main issue at hand was not about the legality but seeing that both sides reach an agreement.

He said that though Uganda Medical Association may not be legally mandated to organise a strike, the doctors are at liberty to raise their concerns over their rights.

“There is a legal aspect to this but the government is not here to pursue that Whether the strike is legal or illegal doctors are not working. We shall not duel onto the legality,” Byaruhanga said.

The State Minister of Finance, David Bahati told the striking doctors that despite willingness by government to address their issues, it could not be achieved now before asking them to return to work.

“The best general is not one who wins but one who avoids the war. We are here for the peaceful resolution of these issues and ask you to return to work,”Bahati asked the medical doctors.

Medical doctors insist on strike

Uganda Medical Association's President, Dr Ekwaro Obuku speaks.

One by one, representatives of the striking doctors blasted government and its officials for always sticking to the rhetoric instead of addressing the key issues concerning them.

“What we have heard from you is just a consolation of words but the problem has not been tackled,” said Dr.Derrick Bbumba from Hoima.

They blasted the health minister Dr.Aceng for being bossy and arrogant instead of addressing their key issues.

“The law you are referring to cannot work in hospitals but doctors. The number one problem is ministry of health. If you don’t want people to die, solve the solution.”

Dr Ekwaro Obuku, the president of the Uganda Medical Association accused government of treating the medical workers as young kids by intimidating them.

“Intimidation must have stopped yesterday. If you are telling us that you have plan B, we have up to plan C,” the vocal Obuku said.

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Diana Atwine listens attentively.

He accused the Health Minster of behaving like the Internal Affairs minister by issuing orders something he said will not be tolerated. Dr.Sam Lyomoki, the workers MP accused the ministers and other officials from government of working to please their masters but leaving out the people they represent.

“You should go back and sort yourselves but if you make a mistake of applying plan B, it will only be a disservice to this country,”Dr.Lyomoki warned.

The representatives from government were only left shaking their heads as well as whispering to each other as representatives of the striking medical doctors poured out their grievances to them.

The medical doctors stood their ground and said they would not backtrack on their strike over pay and poor working conditions. The Uganda Medical Association president noted that the meeting in which they had high hopes turned out to be a waste of their time, stressing they would continue with their strike.

“We shall continue offering only the emergency services as the industrial action goes on,”Dr.Obuku said.


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