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EBOLA: Minister Aceng scoffs at health workers threatening to strike over pay

Minister Aceng.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Health Minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has asked health workers deployed in the Ebola treatment unit in Mubende district who are agitating for payment to be a little more patient and not threaten them with striking.

Without giving exact dates of when the money will come through, Dr. Aceng said health workers need to appreciate that there’s a procedure they follow to process their allowances and once that is done, each one of them will receive a daily risk allowance of eighty thousand shillings.

The minister acknowledged that this money is too low compared to the sacrifice that the health workers are making considering that their colleagues have already succumbed to viral hemorrhagic disease which has so far claimed  a total of fifty-five of the 141 people that have so far been confirmed positive.

The health workers had promised to lay down their tools in two days if they don’t receive their pay and their contracts. According to Dr. Herbert Luswata, the General Secretary of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), some of his colleagues working at the treatment unit located at Mubende district headquarters had indicated to the association that they wanted to lay down tools immediately because they are not sure of who exactly is supposed to pay them.

Luswata explained that while some health workers who were deployed by donors and other agencies such as the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) have been paid already, others are not yet sure of who exactly will pay them, since the Ministry of Health had referred them to medical charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for allowances who bounced them back to the ministry.

Even if the ministry doesn’t have the allowances to pay now, Dr. Luswata urges government to at least avail the health workers their contacts such that they can be clear on payment and other provisions such as how they will be compensated in an event that they get infected or how their families will be compensated in case they die in line of duty.

Responding to this, the minister said the contracts have been prepared and will soon be given to respective health workers, revealing that they are also planning to start remunerating village health teams since this Ebola outbreak showed them that there is a limit to volunteerism.

Dr. Aceng who was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the National Health Promotion and Disease Promotion Conference in Munyonyo said that the current Ebola outbreak has taught them that working closely with communities can easily help them beat outbreaks and diseases that would require a huge financial investment to control.

She said in Mubende, it was until a member of the community who turned up sick revealed to health workers a lot other people were presenting with similar symptoms in his village that they realized that Ebola was spreading.

The minister reports that they haven’t recorded a single case of Ebola in the epicenter districts of Mubende and Kasanda lately. She mentioned that Mubende had made eighteen days without recording a single case when one case was identified and have since not recorded any other case.

In Kassanda, it’s ten days since they had a case. Even the sporadic cases that had come up in the Kampala Metropolitan, Masaka and Jinja districts are normal she said, but warned that the country can only be declared Ebola free after 42 days of not recording a case.

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