The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) has warned of a possible return to strike if the government goes ahead to import doctors from Cuba without addressing existing problems and conditions that prevent Ugandan doctors from providing similar services.
The UMA Executive led by its President Dr. Ekwaro Obuku said Uganda has sufficient specialist doctors to work in rural areas where the government says it wants to post Cuban doctors.
UMA says the government should instead hire Ugandan doctors by immediately advertising 500 posts for specialist doctors.
UMA said: “We pledge to mobilise Ugandan doctors to fill these [posts]. Ugandan doctors should be given priority and only when the knowledge and skill is lacking, should alternative arrangements be considered. Even then, such arrangements should be time bound to permit Ugandan doctors to fill up the positions.”
UMA further stressed that: “The ‘Cuban Solution’ undermines the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy and threatens our progress with the state. Ugandan doctors deserve to be invited to enjoy the fruits of Uganda’s happiness.”
UMA further noted that: “The comprehensive cost for importing Cuban doctors likely outweighs the benefits,” UMA asked the government to instead use the money it may have to spend on procuring housing, regular flight tickets, salary, security, paying for interpreters to supplement the pay for Ugandan doctors,” the statement read out by Dr. Obuku noted in part.
UMA’s strong response comes in the wake of confirmed reports by the Minister of Public Service Mululi Mukasa that the government is planning to import some 200 specialist doctors from Cuban. The government said that it wants to post the medics at Mulago and other upcountry regional referral hospitals.
While reading a statement at a news conference in Kampala, Dr. Obuku said: “Uganda has over 1500 specialist doctors registered by the medical council. The reasons Specialists aren’t available in regional and rural hospitals are what motivated the doctors strike.
“We note with concern that Doctors and other health workers who were transferred recently were not given a single coin to facilitate their transfer as per the public service standing orders.”
But Obuku expressed optimism that with a new enhanced salary structure, starting with the coming financial year: “UMA expects improved attraction and retention of Specialist Doctors in hospitals upcountry.”