Ugandan Medics Lay Tools Over Pay. Strike May Fuel Public Anger Against Museveni Gov’t

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Ugandan doctors under their umbrella body, Uganda Medical Association (UMA) have laid down their tools after government failed to respond to their grievances.

President Yoweri Museveni “threatened to call a state of emergency and arrest the doctors,” if they took the industrial action, UMA president Dr. Ekwaro Obuku said last week.

See: Museveni Threatens to Declare State of Emergency, Arrest Striking Medics

Obuku however announced yesterday that the strike had started at midnight and will only be called off if government answers their demands.

“We love and care for our patients and hope the supplies improve to make our work better,” Dr Obuku said as he led the doctors to the implementation of the industrial action.

As part of their myriad demands, the doctors want government to review their salaries which would see an intern doctor’s salary rise to Shs8.5 million from the current Shs960,000 before tax. They also want a medical officer or teaching assistant to be paid Shilling 15million, be given a 2-bedroom house and a 2.5cc vehicle.

Diana Atwine, permanent secretary at the ministry of health was quoted by Reuters news agency saying  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 to hold consultations on the bill to extend the president’s rule. MPs already receive about $5,900 per month.

The UMA general secretary, Dr Mukuzi Muhereza said all out patients (OPD) CARE will be closed, including all routine non-emergency clinics like diabetes, HIV and antenatal.

“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,” Muhereza said.

The strike will fuel public disillusionment with President Yoweri Museveni’s government, already facing anger over a plan to extend his 31-year rule.

Museveni, 73, is currently barred from running in the next polls in 2021 because the constitution imposes an age ceiling of 75 for candidates. The ruling party is seeking to scrap the cap, with the president’s backing.

The move has provoked protests that have been put down with tear gas