By Frank Kamuntu
After a strike staged on Tuesday by a group of medical interns who are on the 2019/2020 training program, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has responded by advising them to either report to the stations where they were assigned for internship or return to their homes.
While striking, the medics said they have been working under a harsh environment and have tried to communicate to the Ministry but have not been helped.
Dr Romeo Okudi, who is the Vice President of the Federation for Uganda Medical Interns said that ” We have always written to MOH informing them about many issues affecting us as health workers but we never got any help.”
He added that “The Ministry of Health has adamantly refused to respond to us. They have gone ahead to force us to pick appointment letters, giving deadlines and most our colleagues were even harassed. Last time we informed them that we are not going to report to work unless they respond to us but they have gone ahead to implement the policies that we don’t want.”
Okudi revealed this as he walked with his colleagues to Parliament to present their petition to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
However, Dr Charles Olaro the Director of General Health Services, said the interns must adhere to the current condition because their number is big, yet the MOH does not determine, or control the number of students admitted for various medical courses in universities.
He advised therefore they have to use the limited resources available.
Olaro also said that their demands for salary increase cannot be fulfilled because they are students and not civil servants who are recruited through human resource systems.
“Medical interns are not civil servants because they have not been recruited through the formal recruitment system and therefore cannot earn a salary. They are still undergoing apprenticeship training, after which, those who qualify will register as medical doctors and obtain a practising license to be able to apply for formal recruitment,” Olaro said in a document circulated on Monday.
Olaro clarified that MOH only pays interns allowances to facilitate their apprenticeship.
“The current allowance paid to the medical interns is what is available in the MoH medium-term expenditure framework, taking into consideration the very high number of the medical interns,” he noted.
Interns also complained of inadequate accommodation at some training sites but according to Olaro, an accommodation allowance has always been incorporated into the monthly allowance given to them.
This is because they are few hospitals that provide internship training in terms of infrastructure and capacity, yet currently there is a big number of interns that are being released from the universities.
“We would like to clarify that until the late 1990s, medical internship was only for medical doctors and dental practitioners with manageable numbers usually less than 300 in total. The internship training sites then would provide accommodation and meals.
Since then several other health workers have joined the internship training program (Graduate Nurses, Midwives, and Pharmacists). Besides, many new medical schools have sprung up releasing over 1,000 graduates per year that require internship training and the few facilities we have can’t afford what our interns request for,” said Olaro.
He however, advised those interested in doing internship to report to stations where they were posted and start their internship exercise as the ministry plans for their requests.