The Committee on Government Assurance and Implementation has tasked the Ministry of Public Service to explain the unending industrial action by medical workers.
This is as the Minister of State for Public Service, Hon Grace Mugasa and the Minister of State for Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan Affairs, Hon Kyofatogabye Kabuye, appeared before the committee on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 to respond to the failure to implement presidential directives to enhance the emoluments of medical personnel, including Interns.
The committee chaired by Hon Betty Nambooze (NUP, Mukono Municipality) is scrutinising the failure to enhance allowances for medical interns from Shs 750,000 to Shs 2.5 million per month.
In May this year, the over 1,500 medical interns in the country went on strike demanding that their allowances be raised to Shs 5 million which is what junior medical officers earn.
Doctors and medical interns among other health workers have in the past gone on strike over pay, leaving a huge gap in the health sector. The strikes have led to pledges and assurances from the Government, but some of them remain unfulfilled.
Over the last three years, government focused its enhancement of the medical workers salaries based on health professionals, scientists, legal professions and the Judiciary.
Hon Nambooze tasked the minister to explain the position by some government officials who were captured my media directing the interns who do not want to work to vacate the hospital premises.
According to Nambooze, the Ministry of Public Service and Ministry of Health have failed to implement the presidential directives, making the President continually reiterate his commitment. She also tasked the Government side to explain the framework under which the interns work.
“Instead of listening to their concerns, you are threatening them with dismissal. Interns are working and learning at the same time. If you kick them off, are you not affecting their education and the service they provide in the health facilities?” Nambooze asked.
Nambooze also questioned the working relationship between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Service. This was in response to the Ministry’s statement that the interns were not yet formally employed by government and are on training.
“Is the Ministry of Health fair to say that interns are not government employees and that they have never recruited them and even threatening to send them away?” she questioned.
Hon Grace Mugasa, in response said that medical interns are at the core of health service delivery and the Government is passionately touched.
“Health for our citizens is paramount and indeed, the interns are not yet employees of government but are our partners and that is why we have included their enhancement here. In the future they will be employed by government,” Mugasa said.
Asked to comment on the Health Ministry’s statement directing the striking interns to leave their premises, Hon Kabuye, who was standing in for the Minister for the Presidency, said the statement by the health ministry was taken out of context.
“They should leave because they have finished their internship for the second lot to come in, but it is not that they are being sent away because they are striking,” he said, in an attempt to clarify.
Prof. Pius Okong, the Chairperson of the Health Service Commission revealed that the lack of a policy for the operation of medical interns in the country is the main cause of the impasses and has also affected their planning.
“The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health cannot plan for Interns. It cannot budget their allowances due to the uncertainty of their numbers,” he said, adding that the Government should listen to the interns.