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Dr. Atwine asks hospital directors to punish absent health workers

Dr. Diana Atwine inspects Kawempe hospital

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The ministry of health permanent secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine has tasked hospital directors across the country to take disciplinary action against health workers who were away from duty without permission during their recent spot check that ended last week.

In a circular issued to National, Regional Referral and district hospitals on Wednesday, Dr. Atwine directs supervisors in various facilities to report back to her about action taken in a period not later than two weeks. She says that during the visits, the technical team found several health workers away from duty while in others the health workers walked in late.

“It was noted that many health facilities have persistently developed duty rosters with health workers working an average of 12 to 14 days a month. Please note that this level of attendance to duty is unsatisfactory and is tantamount to cheating government”, reads the circular.

Over the weekend as they finalized the spot check at Masaka Regional Referral hospital, Dr. Henry Mwebesa the Director-General of Health Services said this kind of absenteeism that is rampant among senior staff is costing the country lives in terms of maternal and neonatal mortality.

He said deaths due to negligent senior medics are worst in Fort Portal and Hoima hospitals. At Kawempe National Referral Hospital, he said deaths are mostly caused by late referrals from other hospitals.

Dr. Mwebesa explained that in addition to the underlying deliberate staff weaknesses at Regional Referrals, the senior health cadres at the general hospitals and health centres III and IV are not exhausting their potentials thereby making unnecessary referrals of patients that can be handled at their lower-level health facilities.

However, the issue of absenteeism has long affected health facilities and in 2017 as a way of remedying it, the government rolled out biometric fingerprint technology to digitally record health worker’s as they report in the morning and later as they sign out.

The technology was initially piloted in 20 districts in Eastern Uganda where health worker absenteeism was most rampant before being rolled out to the entire country in a phased manner. Many hospitals have these machines now but they are rarely used.

Atwine says apart from revitalizing this technology to be strictly used, they are reviewing new performance appraisal mechanisms that include processing salary payments based on the targets met by each staff.

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