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Ugandan health associations back intern doctors strike

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Dec 14, 2021 - 06:23 AM

KAMPALA, Uganda (AA) – The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) and Uganda Dental Association (UDA) said Monday they are joining in industrial action launched by medical interns for better pay and other demands.

The announcement follows a decision by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to expel all medical interns currently on strike and order them to leave government hospital premises within a week.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the egregious decision of the top brass of MOH to suspend the current intern doctors and strongly advise them to rescind this draconian directive as soon as possible,” said a statement from UMA

UMA president Dr. Richard Idro said they are backing the interns in order to obtain decent pay and living conditions so they can have proper meals and accommodation.

“The UDA joins the industrial action with similar demands as our colleagues in the profession,” it said in a statement.

The medical interns, under their umbrella body the Federation for Uganda Medical Interns (FUMI), have been on strike since Nov. 6 over poor pay and working conditions.

According to a statement released by FUMI president Dr. Lillian Nabwire, the 1,403 medical interns, who are working at 42 hospitals across the country, are demanding an increase in their allowance from US$260 to US$840 per month.

Nabwire said that during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic around July this year, medical interns were deployed at hospitals to handle suspected COVID-19 patents without personal protective equipment (PPE), something that put their lives at risk.

“I wrote a letter to the ministry telling them that 115 interns had contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty, but we got no response,” Nabwire added.

The permanent secretary for Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, recently disclosed that the government has no funds to meet the medical interns’ allowances before advising them to resume work, finish their internships and get better paying jobs.

Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the ministry’s director general of health services, said in a letter last week that the government had fired all medical interns who are currently on strike, giving them one week to vacate government hospitals and pave the way for incoming interns.

But the interns who were expected to fill the gap have now vowed that they will not step in any hospital until the government heeds the demands of their colleagues.

Statistics show that 80% of patients at hospitals are assisted by medical interns.

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