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Kitgum health workers demand Covid-19 risk allowances

Kitgum, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Medical workers at Kitgum General Hospital are demanding their unpaid risk allowances for treating COVID-19 patients. The risk allowance was part of 31.4 Million Shillings that was disbursed by the Health and Finance Ministry in October last year to the district taskforce.

According to the expenditure, 26.2 million shillings was meant for procurement of fuel for enforcement and emergency response and 5.1 million shillings was risk allowance for the frontline workers who include doctors, laboratory specialists, clinical officers, nurses and members of the surveillance team.

The senior hospital administrator Bezzy Omoya says the welfare and risk allowances the health workers are demanding was disbursed in the last financial year and the beneficiaries are concerned that it could be returned to the national treasury as unspent balances.

Omoya says the inconsistency and delayed payment of health workers, some of whom have already contracted the deadly coronavirus disease has caused distress and despair.

Simon Okongo, the COVID-19 surveillance focal point person says despite repeated reminders to the district COVID 19 taskforce and the district authorities about their risk allowances, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Okongo says the delayed payment for the allowances coupled with a host of challenges, including insufficient kits and personal protection equipment, long working hours, has demoralized them.

The Kitgum District Chief Finance Officer Alex Otim attributed the delays to the bureaucratic processes and technical failures in the integrated financial management system. Otim admits that the money was disbursed to the district in the second quarter of the just concluded financial year and it had to undergo mandated procedures that include passing through a supplementary budget and other financial obligations from the Finance Ministry.

Otim however says details of the intended beneficiaries have already been taken while all the delaying factors have already been mitigated and their allowances will be advanced to them anytime soon.

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