Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has told Uganda Parliament’s Health Committee that all measures taken recently in regard to interns allowances and eligibility to practice, were aimed at improving standards in the sector.
Health minister Aceng stated that due to the increasing numbers of newly qualified medical personnel, lack of proper guidelines for training and reported indiscipline of the interns, the need to streamline the management of the internship program has become apparent. The measures, she said, were also to fit into efforts being undertaken at remodeling of the National Referral Hospital into a super specialized tertiary institution.
She maintained that therefore a contract has to be signed by all interns as a pre-condition to enroll for internship in public and private health facilities.
“The health professional councils will administer pre-internship exams in September and those who will pass will be deployed beginning October,” Aceng told the committee on Wednesday.
A team of officials from the ministry of health led by Minister Aceng and State Minister Sarah Opendi Ochieng also explained a new proposal to deny medical interns who were previously on private sponsorship access to their allowances in lieu of salary.
Parliament’s Health Committee chaired by Dr.Michael Yiga Bukenya had demanded to know why the ministry wants to subject medical interns to a two year bonding period after completion of internship without consulting them.
The medical intern leaders led by their president Fauzi Kavuma accompanied by the Secretary General of Uganda Medical Association Dr. Ekwaro Obuku complained to the committee that the ministry is suppressing their rights. They cited the pre-medical internship examination requirement as an example.
Kavuma argued before the members that the proposal is discriminatory in that it creates a distinction between government sponsored students and privately sponsored students at the point of enrollment into the medical internship programme.
According Kavuma, the guidelines state that “privately sponsored students will not be given their allowances in lieu of salary contrary to the requirements of clause 3.6.1(i) of the Uganda Medical and Internship Guidelines, 2016, of the Ministry of health which makes it an entitlement to all medical interns.”
“The premise of the these guidelines is that it recognizes the fact that at this stage, (interns are interns), and there is no such metaphysical distinction as Privately sponsored and government interns ” said Kavuma.
Kavuma was supported by Kasambya MP Louis Mbwa Tekamwa who said the courses are long, resource-draining to parents and guardians, it being a five or four year, full time study course irrespective of the sponsorship status.