Young doctors who have been waiting to be deployed for a year-long medical internship since April stormed the Ministry of Health headquarters in Kampala on Wednesday, agitating for placement.
Dr. Christine Nabutto, one of the pre-interns, expressed her frustration during the protest, stating that they decided to seek answers directly from Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng or the Permanent Secretary after months of receiving conflicting positions from different government officials.
The doctors were originally scheduled to start training on April 1st but have been engaged in on-and-off battles with the police as they attempted to petition different arms of the government, including Parliament.
During last month’s budget reading ceremony, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija informed members of parliament that meetings would be conducted to resolve the fate of interns. If deployed, interns would be entitled to a monthly allowance of 2.4 million Shillings.
Kasaija mentioned the allocation of 22 billion shillings to pay arrears for outgoing interns who completed their training in March, as well as senior house officers demanding arrears since November 2022. However, there has been no further communication since then.
Dr. Herbert Luswata, the Secretary General of the Uganda Medical Association, emphasized that if the government is committed to paying these interns, they should be deployed even without the mobilization of funds yet. He expressed concern that the prolonged wait will only increase pressure, as graduating doctors in their final year will also need to be deployed for internships in about seven months.
“It has been a month since Minister Kasaija made that promise. We have not received any actual confirmation of funds or disbursement from the Ministry of Finance for the deployment. This means the recently graduated intern doctors, nurses, and pharmacists continue to be held in a career and development limbo,” Dr. Luswata added that although the doctors have graduated, they cannot serve anywhere without the necessary licenses, which are acquired only after completing the training.
The Uganda Medical Association issued a notice on Sunday, stating that doctors will go on strike if the young doctors are not deployed by August 1st, 2023. The strike would involve all medical professionals, including nurses and senior doctors, who are currently experiencing the impact of the absence of medical interns in health facilities.
Emmanuel Ainebyoona, the Ministry of Health spokesperson, stated that they were waiting for the Ministry of Finance to initiate the deployment. However, some government officials have proposed the scrapping of allowances due to the increasing number of medical interns graduating from various medical training institutions.
They argue that allocating 2.4 million shillings for each of the over a thousand graduate doctors annually has become increasingly difficult and expensive for the government.