Kampala. The Ministry of Health has asked all medical interns who are striking to either go back to work or leave the programme. They would be allowed to return when the government is able to meet their demands.
The call follows a decision made by medical interns to lay down their tools effective Monday this week in protest of the government’s failure to increase their allowances in the 2021/2022 national budget and provide for their housing. The government earlier committed to increasing the allowances from 960,000 to three million shillings.
Medical interns are health workers who have completed their undergraduate training in the medical field from various universities within or outside the country. These include medical doctors, dental surgeons, nurses, midwives and pharmacists. They are deployed in government facilities to undergo 12 months of supervised training and turn the theoretical knowledge into practical clinical skills in preparation for joining the health workforce.
But a total of 1,403 medical interns are currently on strike in hospitals countrywide, implying that thousands of patients who seek services from government facilities are now unattended to. Records show that the medical interns carry out over 80 per cent of the duties at health facilities.
But now the health ministry has asked all interns interested in learning to go back to their workstations or abandon the programme. Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director-General of Health Services said those who want to continue striking should abandon the year-long programme and return when the money they need is available.
Mwebesa adds that the interns who opt to continue with the strike will be given the option of re-applying for an internship when the Ministry of Finance confirms increased funding to the sector, while those who decide to go continue with the training have been asked to register with the heads of the health facilities before they resume work.
“Those willing to continue training should register with their hospital directors and continue internship without interruption as the health ministry waits for funds to be released. However, those who opt to wait for increased funding first before continuing with internship should leave the training sites immediately,” Dr Mwebesa said.
Dr Lillian Mary Nabwire, the president of the Federation for Uganda Medical Interns(FUMI) says the health ministry should work on addressing their demands instead of intimidating them.
“We agreed as interns to go on strike because we were not comfortable with our working conditions. Instead of issuing statements aimed at creating division among us, the health ministry should talk to the finance ministry and also President Museveni to address our demands,” Dr Nabwire said.
Over the years, the ministry has said that the interns cannot earn a salary because at this stage, they have not been recruited through the formal recruitment system of public service. The ministry adds that the money given to them is an allowance to facilitate their apprenticeship.
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