Ugandan doctors under their umbrella body, Uganda Medical Association (UMA) on Monday laid down their tools after government failed to respond to their grievances.
The last such national strike by doctors was more than 20 years ago, said Faustus Kavuma of the UMA, although local strikes are frequent.
The UMA president Dr Ekwaro Obuku told medical doctors that the strike had started at midnight and will only be called off if government answers their demands.
Mr. Kavuma says doctors lacked necessities like gloves, painkillers and disinfectant
The doctors resolved to resume their strike at their extra ordinary held in Davis Lecture Theatre DLT at Mulago hospital in Kampala. The doctors are protesting low salaries and shortages of essential supplies
According to statement issued by UMA General Secretary Dr. Mukuzi Muhereza, the doctors suspended all services apart from emergencies, which will also be managed by a few select doctors depending on how strong the health facility is.
“During this period, our main target is to show our displeasure on the payment and the working condition that we subjected to by our employer, the government of Uganda,” Dr Muhereza said.
Among other demands, doctors want the least paid medical officer to earn Ugx, 14m, be accorded a two-bedroom house and a 2.5cc vehicle. And the senior consultant to earn Ugx. 48 million. The striking doctors also want a senior consultant to have a five-bedroom house, a 4.0cc vehicle and three domestic workers.
The doctors also want salaries for nurses and midwives increased to Ugx. 6.5 million, plus a three-bedroomed house, 2.0cc vehicle and one domestic worker.
Currently, a senior consultant doctor earns about Ugx. 3.4 million, consultant Ugx. 2.6m, and a medical officer Ugx. 1.1 million.
Dr. Jackson Ojera Abusu, the director of the State Health Monitoring Unit, described the striking doctor’s demands as unsustainable for a developing country like Uganda.
Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda assured the doctors that government was committed to improving their welfare following a meeting between President Museveni and their representatives in Mid-October.
“We know you are raising essentially one which I may summarize as improved conditions and terms or work for doctors and health workers so they work better. Bearing in mind that President Museveni has already extended an invitation to you for further discussion this month, I would advise that the intended industrial action be suspended…….” Rugunda said before being booed down.
Diana Atwine, permanent secretary at the ministry of health, told Reuters the government was willing to raise doctors’ salaries and address their other concerns but they should be patient.
“The problem requires a comprehensive approach because it’s not only medical doctors that are not well paid. All civil servants are not well paid,” she said.
A committee had been instituted, she said, to assess all public workers’ pay and make recommendations. Last month, the government gave lawmakers an extra one-off payment of $8,000 (13 billion) to hold consultations on the bill to extend the president’s rule. MPs already receive about $5,900 per month.