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Medical Interns Divided on Calling off Strike

Medical interns under two factions, the Federation of Uganda Medical Interns (FUMI) and Uganda Medical Interns United are still divided on calling off a sit-down strike over pay.

Speaking on Wednesday, Dr. Musa Lumumba, the FUMI President urged colleagues to return to work on Thursday saying that over 90 percent of internship sites had already paid their respective interns. He noted that only a few hospitals like Kawempe National Referral Hospital, Bombo Military Hospital, Nsambya, Masaka, and Gulu Regional Referral Hospital are yet to pay.

Lumumba says that they have resolved to return to work as they engage the respective government departments over their other grievances considering that they had laid down their tools amidst an Ebola outbreak and a surge in diseases like malaria.

The interns had laid down their tools on November 6 citing delayed payment of their September and October salaries. Also, they protested the failure of the government to solve the discrepancies in pay for intern dentists, nurses, and pharmacists, despite a presidential directive last year that these medical workers be paid half of the recommended pay of the fully appointed officers.

So far, while President Museveni issued this directive more than a year ago, only intern doctors have had a salary raise to match half of the 5.4million shillings that medical officers get. The intern nurses and the pharmacists who too were supposed to be given half the pay their seniors didn’t get, a reason they decided to join the doctors’ strike.

Currently, a graduate nurse earns 4.4 million shillings whereas pharmacists earn 5.4million shillings but the interns haven’t had a raise to match half of that since intern nurses and midwives get 1.5million shillings and the pharmacists get 2 million shillings. 

Lumumba says they have now given the government sixty days to correct these discrepancies.

However, other interns say they didn’t agree on taking this stand. Dr. Leonard Mutebi, Uganda Medical Interns United told URN that they are concerned that neither the Minister-in-charge of Primary Healthcare Margret Muhanga Mugisa nor the Speaker of Parliament Anita Among commented on the issue of salary discrepancies when discussing the strike in parliament. 

“We are wondering who is eating this money. The nurses and pharmacists are colleagues we work with to man these hospitals. It’s selfish for doctors to call off the strike just because we got our September. That wasn’t the only reason we went on strike”.   

Mutebi says, to make a final decision on the strike, they need to first get commitment from the government that intern nurses and pharmacists will get their money in full.     

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