hen the medical laboratory technicians announced their sit-down strike on Monday, Fred Kigongo was in Mbale where he is assigned as a District Laboratory Focal Person. This call for his professional colleagues not to report to hospitals the following day only reawakened his pain of over a decade trying in futility to get a promotion.
He told URN in an interview on Friday that resigning to a payless assignment at the district was after countless treks to the ministry of Health seeking that he and colleagues who hold Bachelors’ and masters’ degrees in medical laboratory related courses could be recognized and paid a salary that matches their qualifications.
Currently, as a masters’ degree holder and twenty years of experience, Kigongo who graduated way back in 2007 has settled for a Shs1.2million same as earned by junior diploma holders who are just starting service.
The only step he has since taken towards changing his pay is when the human resource manager gave him an increment of Shs12, 000 in 2007 while working at a Health Center IV.
Kigongo has now resolved to join the strike.
Patrick Dennis Alibu, the General Secretary of the Uganda Medical Lab Technology Association that is leading the strike says four days later, they haven’t heard from the government on whether their grievances will be handled.
He said the strike, which is their first ever came as a last resort following many unanswered letters and meeting appointments with both the ministries of Public Service and Health.
He says while Uganda started training bachelor’s degree holders in medical laboratory related courses in 1998 for Makerere University and in 2000 for Mbarara University of Science and Technology, government recruitment stops at hiring diploma holders who earn a paltry shs1.2million and shs800, 000 for the certificate holders.
When they tried to push for reforms, he says a circular standing instruction was issued by the Ministry of Public Service asking accounting officers to recognize and recruit degree holders but three years later, this has remained on paper.
Among other issues that they want to be solved include salary enhancement, recruitment of degree holders in the laboratory discipline to the public service in addition to compensating families of lab professionals who died in the line of duty at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, Alibu says laboratory services at the district level need to be streamlined such that instead of having focal persons, they should appoint more qualified officials to fit in the Post of Assistant District Health Officer in charge of lab services.
Meanwhile, as they continue to push for this in the ongoing industrial action, their colleagues the medical doctors who just ended their own strike after reaching a compromise with government say they pushed for changes that represent everyone in the medical fraternity.
Asking the lab techs to go back to work, Dr. Samuel Oledo who heads the Medical Association told URN in an interview that another strike now would not yield anything much.