Pharmacists say they will join Doctors' strike if Museveni does not stop threats

Pharmacists under their umbrella body, the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda (PSU) have warned president Museveni to stop threatening medical workers who are in their second week of industrial action.

Speaking at a rally in Burahya County, Kabarole District on Thursday, Museveni said he would sack all medical doctors currently on strike for failing the NRM principal of managing scarce resources and replace them with those who are hungry for jobs.

Addressing journalists on Friday, at Pharmacy house in Kyambogo, Edson Ireeta, a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda warned that threatening medical workers will only add salt to existing wounds caused by the strike.

“If I were him, I would not threaten them but rather seek to dialogue with them to solve the impasse,”Ireeta told journalists. “It seems this is not the Museveni we knew who always advocated for dialogue to solve issues.”

President Museveni on Thursday said the doctors had betrayed him by letting people die because they want a pay raise something he described as being intolerable and vowed to replace the striking medical workers with new ones.

The army spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire on Thursday confirmed that they had deployed military doctors in hospitals so as to provide the critical service to the people adding that this would be done by providing 10 medical personnel to hospitals in Kampala without depleting their(UPDF) capacity to treat own patients.

Responding to it, the pharmacists’ body said this was not tenable in the current situation adding that this would only be a waste of time.

“How many medics does the army or police have? Even if they deploy them, they cannot close the gap that was left by the striking medical workers,”Ireeta said.

Uganda Medical Association president Dr.Ekwaro Obuku recently said there are over 1300 medical doctors and nurses currently under strike. The pharmacists cited an example of specialists at national referral and regional referral hospitals who are scarce in the country, whom he said the army or police cannot provide but are needed in hospitals.

“Some of these are only two in the entire country. Where will they get those to replace those striking? Government and other officials from the Health Ministry have always received reports of the problems facing health workers and it is high time they worked on them.”

The pharmacists’ body argued that the only solution to the problems of the striking medical workers is dialogue.

“We had not joined the strike thinking government would sit with the medical workers for a dialogue but if this situation persists, we too might be forced to join the strike,”Ireeta told journalists.

Ismail Ssenkungu, the central region representative for the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda warned that the more government takes long to sit down with the striking doctors, the more the population suffers.

He however warned government officials that they too can be victims of the ongoing strike by medical workers.

“Many of you (government officials) think that because you have insurance in private hospitals you are safe. Sickness might attack you while in the village and you can only get first aid at the nearest health centre IV which has not medical workers,”Ssenkungu said.

Early this month, medical workers under their umbrella body, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), laid down their tools after government failed to respond to their grievances of pay increment which they said is currently not matching the job market.

They aregue that their net pay of Shs900,000 is too little compared to their counterparts from other parts of the world despite the ever increasing cost of living in Uganda.

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