The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) has advised newly graduated doctors not to comply with the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) directive to apply and facilitate their one-year internship training.
In an interview on Thursday morning, Dr. Herbert Luswata, the UMA General Secretary, stated that they had issued a notice to pre-interns, instructing them to hold off on applying and wait for further instructions from their upcoming association meeting on Saturday.
Dr. Luswata expressed concerns that the ministry’s proposal, which allows those who can afford it to apply and be deployed to various training centers, would create an environment ripe for corruption. He feared that medical interns would begin charging patients for services that are meant to be free in government hospitals.
Medical interns are entitled to a monthly allowance of 2.5 million shillings, which is intended to cover accommodation and meals. However, in a statement released on Wednesday, Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary of the MOH, requested that pre-interns who can afford it start their training, with reimbursement dependent on the availability of funds from the Ministry of Finance.
“The ministry has observed that the delayed deployment of medical interns has distorted internship cycles given that other students are about to graduate from various medical schools and these will also compete for the same training facilities,” the statement reads in part.
This decision did not sit well with some pre-interns, leading to demonstrations and clashes with the police. Three young doctors were arrested and were still in custody at Wandegeya police station by the time of filing this story.
Dr. Robert Lubega, a member of UMA stated that they were currently gathering signatures for an online petition against Dr. Atwine’s proposal, describing it as draconian and warning that it could lead to inequality among future healthcare workers, as internships would become accessible only to the wealthy.
This group of pre-interns was originally scheduled to begin their internship on April 1, 2023. However, due to budget constraints resulting from the increasing number of medical schools and students joining internships, the ministry was unable to deploy them.
There have been suggestions to completely scrap intern allowances, a proposal strongly opposed by the medical association.