Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Senior medical officers have threatened to lay down their tools to push for a pay rise and an acceleration in their promotion process to senior consultant level. The move follows a similar industrial action by Senior House Officers (SHO) and Medical Interns, who are seeking better salaries and deployment to different medical centers.
The senior medical officers, also known as medical officers with a special grade, hold the same qualifications as consultant doctors but earn significantly lower salaries. Dr. Iren Asaba Mugisha, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Mulago National Referral Hospital, points out that the medical officers’ special grade is currently bearing the biggest burden of all the work in the big health centers and tertiary institutions because there are very few senior consultants.
She also notes that the promotion process for special-grade medical officers is slow, with the government only promoting medical officers after the retirement or death of a senior consultant in a particular hospital.
Dr. Herbert Luswata, the Secretary General of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), has highlighted that there is a 102% difference in the salaries of a medical officer’s special grade and a senior consultant, despite their qualifications being the same and the difference in experience in practice being minor.
UMA has written several letters to the Ministry of Public Service requesting that this error be corrected but to no avail. Luswata has also suggested that changing the name of medical officers’ special grade to associate consultant could help address the confusion about the salary structure.
Dr. Ismail Mwesigye, a trauma surgeon at Mulago Hospital, has called on the government to provide 21 billion shillings a year to cater for the salaries of the medical officers’ special grade. The senior medical officers have given the government until Monday 9th to address their issues, failing which they will embark on a strike and not handle emergencies in any hospital.
Dr. Robert Lubega, the National leader of senior house officers, has pointed out that the 11 million shillings demanded by senior medical officers are small compared to what is paid in private hospitals, and that this has led to several senior doctors leaving the country for better opportunities.
The senior house officers’ strike is still ongoing, and the situation in hospitals is likely to worsen if the government does not respond to the demands of both groups of medical professionals.