The Center for Health, Human Rights, and Development (CEHURD) have asked government to immediately intervene in the continuous strikes by medical interns citing the loss of lives.
In a press statement by CEHURD issued today, they the urgent need for action to address the challenges facing the healthcare sector in Uganda. It served as a call to action for the government and other stakeholders to prioritize the welfare of healthcare workers and ensure that citizens had access to quality healthcare services.
This comes after the country,was thrown into disarray on the 9th of May 2023 when Kampala specialist and this include gynaecologists, pediatricians, surgeons and Senior House officers in public health facilities decided to lay down their tools in solidarity with their colleagues, senior house officers, who had gone on strike due to delayed payment of their allowances.
The senior house officers had been on strike for several weeks, demanding the government to disburse their allowances that had been pending for several months. Despite several promises from the government to pay, nothing had been done, leaving the house officers with no choice but to embark on a strike.
The situation has however, worsened when specialist doctors joined the strike, further crippling the already fragile healthcare system.
The statement was issued in the wake of the recent strikes by senior house officers and specialist doctors in public health facilities in Kampala, which had resulted in loss of lives and serious harm to patients.
According to the Advocacy Coordinator, CEHURD ” It is important to note that the country continues to grapple with the challenge of Human Resources for Health. The National Human Resource for Health Audit Report 2021/22 revealed that the available Human Resources for Health cannot adequately cater for the health needs of Ugandans. The Audit showed a major shortage of high level cadre including specialists, consultants and senior consultants.” – Peter Eceru.
However, an earlier strike which was called on 20th of February 2023 where the Senior House officers called off the strike to allow for a negotiated settlement with government with the industrial Action specialist comes on the back door of protests by pre medical interns who according to Uganda Medical Association have also been waiting for deployment to health facilities for 9 months had taken a deadly turn.
The situation had caught the attention of the media, and soon, the story was all over the news. Citizens took to social media to air their frustrations, condemning the government for their inaction.
CEHURD also noted that strikes by healthcare professionals had become a recurring issue in Uganda, with healthcare workers regularly embarking on strikes to demand better working conditions and remuneration. The organization pointed out that while healthcare professionals had a right to demand better working conditions, their actions had dire consequences on the lives of citizens.
The strike by Specialists, senior House officers( SHOs) and the non deployment of medical interns will catastrophic consequences on the ability of health facilities to deliver health services to the vulnerable poor. The SHOs for example provide about 63% of the labour in regional and referral hospitals and provide support supervision to medical interns who handle emergencies. Their absence from facilities means that service provision will be curtailed- Nakibuuka Noor Musisi, Deputy Executive Director Programme CEHURD.
Therefore CEHURD has called on the government to address the root causes of the strikes and ensure that healthcare workers were adequately remunerated and provided with a conducive working environment. The organization also urged the government to take urgent steps to improve the healthcare system in the country and prioritize the welfare of healthcare workers.
These strikes have continuously exposed the glaring gaps in the healthcare system, particularly in the remuneration of healthcare workers. It’s government’s obligation to address the issues that are always leading to the strike, or risk facing similar situations in the future.
It has also caused a ripple effect, affecting not only the healthcare system but also the lives of citizens. It was a harsh reminder of the importance of healthcare workers and the need for the government to prioritize the healthcare sector.
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