Medical doctors have asked the government to screen private health facilities and allow those that have the prerequisite staff and equipment to recruit graduate doctors into internships.
Making the call amidst endless strikes by medical interns over allowances and conditions of work over the years, Dr Frank Asiimwe Rubabinda, the President of the Association of Surgeons of Uganda (ASOU) says it is now clear that government cannot handle the growing number of medical interns graduating from the increasing number of medical schools.
He says this increase which is becoming a challenge to the Ministry of Health was expected after the government liberalized education which increased the number of medical schools. He adds that, if the government cannot afford to deploy and offer allowances to the up to a thousand being released into internship annually, they should give private entities a green light to do so.
Rubabinda was speaking on Tuesday at a Press Conference held by the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) in which pre-interns gave the government an ultimatum of Friday to deploy them into internship or go on strike.
The new interns were supposed to be deployed at the over thirty internship sites by April 01st but according to a circular by Dr. Henry Mwebesa the Director General of Health Services to Directors of hospitals, the one-year training will commence later on after ironing out key issues with the training that they are still consulting on.
Mwebesa hang up the call when contacted by URN, but there have previously been plans to introduce a pre-entry examination into internship and unconfirmed proposals to erase allowances due to a small health budget.
However, the doctors under the Uganda Medical Association say the government should instead formalize these allowances to become salaries that are budgeted as it is for all other public servants.
The UMA President Dr. Edith Nakku said with the low doctor-to-patient ratio, medical interns are literally running hospitals and should be paid for the service that they offer. She said the current vacuum as the interns await deployment will impact patients who seek services from these hospitals.
Dr. Adison Tumuhimbise a representative of Pre – Interns from Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) says they are currently confused about what to do considering that they cannot practice without first doing an internship and yet unaware of their fate.
He says while interns earn 2.5 million Shillings in monthly allowances currently, they are supposed to earn 2.7 million which is half of what the medical doctors earn.
According to Tumuhimbise, if the Ministry of Health doesn’t release the internship lists this week, they will be forced to start their training with a strike.
Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health Public Relations Officer, says that they can’t confirm for sure when the internship will begin as they are still awaiting a commitment on the availability of funds to pay allowances.
He says a final decision will be taken by the Ministries of Health, Education, and Finance and after this, the endless funding problems for interns will have found a permanent solution.