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Lab technicians join other medical workers in industrial action

Patrick Dennis Alibu, the Laboratory Association Secretary-General addressing the press on Monday. URN photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Laboratory technicians under their umbrella, the Uganda Medical Lab Technology Association said they will not be reporting to work on Tuesday. The development comes amidst industrial action by the doctors and medical interns whose grievances have only been partially resolved.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday afternoon, Patrick Dennis Alibu, the laboratory association secretary-general said they had put the Ministry of Public Service on notice over this strike three weeks ago but didn’t get feedback prompting them to lay down tools.

The laboratory professionals told journalists that their efforts to serve in the health sector haven’t been recognized by government, that even as many of them have advanced in their studies to attain degrees and PhDs, government still gives them an entry salary of Shs1.2million.

Alibu says this money is the same as earned by diploma holders and lab assistants who earn a take home salary of Shs800,000 and yet many of his colleagues went back to study when Makerere University started degree courses in 1998 followed by Mbarara University of Science and Technology-MUST in 2000.

For him, if the cadre of degree holders is recognized by accounting officers, then they would be earning around the same as medical officers who are currently earning a gross of 3million shillings and are in industrial action to have this revised to 5million shillings. But despite this circular being sent out to accounting officers in 2019 to provide for recruitment of degree holders, it hasn’t happened.

Now apart from this, the medical laboratory officials who are in their first ever industrial action are also asking that their focal persons in local governments be elevated to the same level as district health officers who are at the level of medical doctors to be able to manage the dynamics of laboratory services that come with emergence of new pathogens and diseases like the hemorrhagic fevers and COVID-19.

Meanwhile, a skeptical official of Uganda Medical Association who spoke to URN on condition anonymity said that the best that lab professionals would have done is to join them in the main industrial action since over the years, whenever salaries of medical doctors were enhanced, they consider all the other cadres across the medical fraternity. For instance, he says medical worker recruitment procedures stipulate that medical interns earn half of that their seniors earn.

However, the new strike also involves technicians working in blood banks and the six government reference laboratories.

According to statistics by Allied Health Professionals Council, there about 13,000 registered lab professionals with 10,000 in active service.

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