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Museveni defends proposal on Cuban doctors

 

President Museveni looks at items at the Labour day exhibition. PHOTO PPU

Sembabule, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | President Yoweri Museveni has defended a government proposal to import medical personnel from Cuba to work in public hospitals in rural areas, saying the move was intended to avert a crisis created by Ugandan doctors.

Reports indicate that government intends to import at least 200 Cuban doctors, in a plan that was mooted during the doctors’ strike in protest of poor pay and poor working conditions late last year.

Speaking at the National Labor Day Celebrations in Sembabule district on Tuesday, President Museveni said that Ugandan doctors wanted to create a crisis through their strikes but failed. He says he will import the Cuban doctors to do work that Ugandan medics think that they are earning peanuts for.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health Dr Diana Atwine had a day earlier said a decision on the Cubans coming was awaiting Cabinet approval, and that only specialists to be seconded to referral hospitals, would be considered.

Reports indicate that government is ready to offer each Cuban doctor about $1,500 (about sh5.4 million ) per month. A local senior consultant doctor currently gets sh 4.5 million per month.

Museveni’s remarks came after the Chairman General of National Organisation of Trade Unions-NOTU Usher Wilson Owere requested that the money to be given to the imported doctors be given to Ugandan doctors to improve their welfare.

“Government workers must have discipline. On the issue of Cuban doctors that I keep hearing people talk about. Yes, I wanted to bring Cuban doctors because our own doctors behaved very badly and unprofessionally,” Museveni said, adding that “they had tried to incite doctors to abandon patients so that they die. But fortunately, many of the doctors refused to leave patients and I congratulate them. It is only the few bad ones that boycotted patients and thought they would create a crisis for Uganda but they failed.”

Last week, Ugandan doctors demanded that the reported 200 slots be advertised so that Ugandan doctors with similar specialities are given priorities and only areas where there is no one to take the job, the option of Cuban doctors be explored.

While addressing journalists in Kampala, Dr Obuku Ekwaro, the President Uganda Medical Association (UMA) opposed the importation of Cuban doctors arguing that the conditions in Uganda do not warrant government to import Cuban medical specialists and consultants.

Uganda has over 1,500 specialist doctors registered with Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council-UMDPC.   Dr Ekwaro says however that the reasons specialists aren’t available in regional and rural hospitals are what motivated last year’s doctors’ strike.

He noted that the comprehensive cost of importing Cuban doctors is likely to outweigh the benefits citing that the imported medical workers will dig into taxpayers’ money to cater for their housing, transport (airfare), salary and security.

Up to 150 specialist doctors graduate annually in Uganda with now 530 specialists in training in the five universities in the country and over 150 sub-specialists sent to India, Canada, USA and Italy.

In the recent past, Cuban Doctors were instrumental in setting up Mbarara University of Science and Technology – MUST in 1990. By 2017, MUST with the help of Cuban Doctors have trained over 1000 Medical Doctors in Uganda.

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