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Medical interns start strike over working conditions

Medical Interns in a meeting (FILE PHOTO)

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  Medical Interns have laid down their tools in protest of the government’s failure to improve their welfare. The interns under their umbrella body; the Federation for Uganda Medical Interns (FUMI), want the government to increase their allowances from 960,000 to three million Shillings and provide housing for them.

FUMI president Dr Mary Lilian Nabwire says that they have chosen to strike because their pleas for a raise in allowances as promised before was in vain. Parliament had earlier recommended that medical interns’ allowances be raised to three million Shillings for doctors and 2.2 million Shillings for nurses as gross income effective this financial year.

However, Dr Nabwire says that the 35 billion Shillings which was to be added to their annual budget of 12 billion was not included., implying that the recommendations were not absorbed into the budgeting process. The interns, therefore, agreed that they are not ready to work amidst poor conditions.

“Government has been promising us to increase our money but they have not. Other cadres got an increase but we were left out. When we wrote to them, they did not take us seriously yet the situation we are working under is hard. Interns are working hungry because the money they receive is not enough,” Dr Nabwire said.

Medical interns in Uganda provide a great service as the country’s patient-doctor ratio as recommended by the World Health Organisation is still low. It is estimated that over 80 per cent of patients at hospitals are served by interns. URN visited several hospitals in Kampala and found that the work had stalled as a result of the strike.

At Mulago National Referral hospital, the children’s ward was stuck with crying children and confused parents because there was no one there to assist them. A cleaner at the hospital told URN that there are no interns to help take samples for children for testing. Each ward usually has four medical interns.

At Kawempe General hospital, however, much as medical students acknowledge the absence of medical interns today, they claim that their hospital has not been affected as their senior workers are available.

At Kiruddu and Naguru general hospitals, the lack of interns left many patients stranded. Amelia Amooti, a patient caretaker at Kiruddu hospital told us that she had been waiting for a doctor for eight hours to assist her father to have a dialysis session. Normally, her father has to wait for an hour before being attended to.

Dr Godfrey Mweru reports that the strike was inevitable because he is always financially strained especially by rent.

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