Medical interns have set Shs 2.5 million as the bare minimum, non-negotiable salary that must be deposited on their accounts before they call off the ongoing strike.
Though the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) has set Shs 8.5 million as salary that must be paid to intern doctors, Robert Lubega, the president of medical intern for 2017-2018 says they have lowered their salary demands to Shs 2.5 million as "non-negotiable". The intern doctors laid down tools together with licensed doctors on November 6 pushing for better pay.
Lubega says they will wait for government to meet their demands. Lubega says medical interns are tired of working under poor conditions.
On Thursday, health minister Ruth Aceng ordered doctors to return to work immediately or risk losing their jobs. She also asked interns to call off the strike or lose their internship placements.
Though the ministry of health claims that medical interns are paid Shs 900,000 per month, Lubega says the permanent secretary of ministry of health Dr Diana Atwine released a letter on November 2 saying that this year's medical interns will be paid Shs 740,000 per month.
Lubega says the figure was broken down into Shs 400,000 as allowance, Shs 250,000 for meals and Shs 90,000 for accommodation.
Lubega says there is nowhere in Uganda that they can get a decent accommodation at Shs 90,000 or meals at 250,000 for a month. He further claims that there are medical interns who have been paid as low as Shs 550,000.
"We’re saying unless the ministry of Health and the relevant stakeholders give us Shs 2.5 million for now we’re also going to keep laying down our tools as medical interns of 2017/18.
There is letter that was released by the permanent secretary dated 2nd November to the hospital directors which highlights that Shs 740,000 has been dispatched to our accounts. It [letter] breaks down that amount as follows. That Shs 400,000 of that is for allowances, Shs 250,000 is for feeding and Shs 90,000 of that is for accommodation.
So we’re saying madam PS there is no where in Uganda that you can get a decent accommodation of Shs 90,000 or meals of Shs 8,000 per day. That is all we’re saying that we’re putting down our tools until we get Shs 2.5 million on our accounts as net monthly pay", said Lubega.
Lubega says no government officials should classify medical interns as students.
"A medical intern is not a student but a graduate doctor from a recognised university who is undergoing one-year supervised practical training at an accredited internship training centre."
He says medical interns are a backbone of Uganda's health system. "We are the foot soldiers who an accident victim will find in hospital when they are brought to emergency unit before seeing a senior doctor," Lubega says.
Lubega also argues that medical interns can't work when their supervisors are on strike. He says a total of 970 medical interns are deployed in 35 hospitals across the country.