Medical doctors in Uganda have declared a strike that will see them lay down their tools effective today (Monday) until their demands to government are met. The doctors decry their current remuneration which they say is meagre among other concerns like unfavorable working conditions and inadequate supplies.
The decision to declare an indefinite industrial action was reached at during a general assembly of the medics at Mulago Hospital on Monday, under their umbrella body Uganda Medical Association (UMA).
During the strike, doctors will cease to offer services like; all outpatient care, non emergency cases and non emergency surgeries.
They say they will only attend to emergencies until government fulfills their demands.
A heated meeting characterized by chants of anger and dissatisfaction was also attended by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Minister of Health in charge of General Duties Sarah Opendi and Minister of Workers Sam Lyomoki.
In his remarks, the President of the Uganda Medical Association Dr. Ekwaro Obuku said that the medics are not striking for themselves but for every Ugandan citizen who deserves better healthcare.
Ekwaro noted that; “It should be the mandate of the government to tell us (doctors) tangible reasons for not continuing with the strike.”
“I have no problem working in Karamoja if am paid Shs 29 million. You can’t leave money for beans and expect to find to find meat,” Ekwaro added, referring to the meagre pay in comparison to the doctors’ workload.
The Minster of Workers Sam Lyomoki who stood in solidarity with the doctors strike wondered how government would avail huge chunks of money for politics and pay a deaf ear to pertinent issues concerning health care.
Efforts by the Prime Minister to get the doctors to subdue and call off the strike were futile. Instead, they booed him.
In their demands regarding emoluments, doctors want their salaries hiked from Shs 960,000 to Shs 8.5 million (after tax) for an intern doctor and Shs 15 million for a medical officer or teaching assistant from the current Shs 1 million. On top of this, they want government to provide a two bedroom house and a vehicle.
At the level of a senior consultant doctor or professor, they demand that this attracts a salary of Shs35 million on top of a five bedroom house, a vehicle and three domestic workers.
The Vice President of UMA Prof. Pauline Byakika said that practicing doctors today are not facilitated well as was the case in the 50 years ago.
“The doctors’ would love to see improvements in their working conditions – in stocks of supplies, equipment and their welfare in terms of salary and allowances,” Byakika told the press.
“Doctors’ work is unique because they work beyond normal working hours, during public holidays but they earn little. This demotivates them,” she added.
However, the strike is likely to have far reaching implications especially on the ordinary Ugadans majority of whom can barely afford services from private health facilities.
Earlier this year, medical doctors made a similar move when they laid down their tools for over three months until government accepted to raise their monthly allowances.