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Over 100,000 qualified health workers can’t find jobs – Health Ministry

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health has revealed that 101,350 qualified medical workers cannot find jobs in the public service. This was contained in the new Human Resources for Health data released by the Ministry on Thursday afternoon.

While the 101,350 could be redundant, under employed, have abandoned the field for other businesses or have gone to seek greener pastures abroad, there is dire need for critical cadres. Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners council noted in their annual report that some districts especially in the Karamoja and Eastern Uganda run without key specialists like gynecologists and obstetricians.

In their report, the council noted that across district hospitals which are supposed to be run by specialist doctors, there are gaps of up to 83% whereas the vacant posts for consultants and senior consultants in the National Referral and Regional Referral Hospitals is at 61%. The availability of such a big stock of qualified professionals would cover up this vacuum but Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng says they can’t hire because of wage constraints.

To be able to hire she said, the ministry is planning to undertake an assessment to first establish whether their move to increase salaries last year had an impact on work motivation and retention of health workers.

For her, some progress has been made in staffing although they have not yet met the targets with some health centers being upgraded recently requiring an increased number of health workers. While they had a target of having 80% staffing levels by 2018, two years later, that has not been achieved with staffing levels currently being at 76%.

However even as overall staffing levels are above average, the same data shared today shows there is a gap of 51% for the doctors needed by the country if we are to meet the World Health Organization recommendation of having a doctor per 1000 people. The doctor to patient ratios are still alarmingly below recommendation at one per 25,000 people.

When it comes to anesthetic officers who are supposed to work in theatres, there are only 30% of those that are needed whereas the theatre staff are at 32% even as the national health policy says each of the over a thousand Health Center IVs in the country should have a theatre.

When it comes to dispensers, the country has only 40% and pharmacists are 50%. But, when these figures were put to Aceng, she said government slowly filling those gaps by offering scholarships in fields that don’t attract as many students. She said already some 721 scholarships have been awarded under an arrangement to have these deployed as soon as they finish school.

Of the beneficiaries, 101 are offering diplomas in Anaesthesia, 39 for Bachelor of Anaesthesia, 29 for Bachelor in Biomedical Engineering and 173 for Certificate in theatre techniques. However, recently in an emergency hiring for the coronavirus pandemic, they enrolled 500 health workers, picking them from thousands of applicants.

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