Medical interns at Mulago National Referral Hospital have laid down their tools over non-payment of their three-month allowance arrears.
The strike started last Saturday following the government’s failure to remit the interns’ allowances to their accounts last Friday.
Medical interns are entitled to a net monthly pay of Shs600,000 to cater for their accommodation, transport and meals.
“Although interns in other hospitals received their partial payments for the three months arrears in the first week of March, for us [interns at Mulago] we have not been paid,” Dr Fauz Kavuma, the interns’ president, said.
When Daily Monitor contacted Mulago Hospital’s executive director, Dr Baterana Byarugaba, about the matter, he said the hospital has received Shs258m from the ministry for the students.
Dr Byarugaba added that he was shocked to hear that the students had gone ahead to strike despite the earlier agreement by the two parties to have them cleared soon.
“Even then, I want to assure you that whether all the interns put down their tools, we shall continue working effectively even better. In fact, it will be affecting their own cycle of study.”
Contrary to Dr Byarugaba’s claim, scenes of patients stranded at different hospitals, including Mulago due to inadequate human resource, have been common whenever the interns lay down their tools. Dr Kavuma said the Shs258m is not enough to facilitate all the students.
“If you divide that amount by the number of students, each of us would receive at most Shs1.5 million – for only two months,” he said.
Until all the allowance arrears are cleared, there might be a struggle to convince the interns to return to work, the interns’ president noted.
The latest strike development comes six months after a strike last year in August when the prospective doctors in different government hospitals protested against the government’s proposal to scrap the allowance it gives them for their one–year attachment.
The government, consequently, shelved the plan. There are indications the strike at Mulago could spread to other health facilities.
For instance, at Entebbe General Hospital, interns who did not want to have their names revealed for fear of reprisal, said they are contemplating striking if the ministry does not release their full payment by end of this week.
“For now, we are still in consultation with officials at the hospital and ministry,” one of the interns stated in a phone interview.
Asked about the partial payments to hospitals, Dr Anthony Mbonye, the ministry’s acting director general of Health services, said it means that is all the money they have.
“For us [Ministry of Health], we sent the money. I am not the accounting officer. For me, I deal with technical issues,” he said referring us to Dr Diana Atwine, the ministry permanent secretary.
However, Dr Atwiine explained that: “the money is supposed to be released quarterly. We need to find out from the ministry why money was released for only two months.”