President Yoweri Museveni rightly named medical workers involved in the fight against the spread the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as frontline workers.
This is because medical workers on the frontlines of fighting the pandemic are exposed to life-threatening risks when treating patients. Much as there is no amount of money that can be equated to the risks involved, these medical workers need to be paid their hazard allowances on time.
These medical workers are facing many risks and limitations. Their liberty has been restricted. Once they set foot in hospitals where Covid-19 patients are admitted, medical workers are not allowed to return home.
They too are quarantined at their medical facilities for fear of spreading the disease. Another risk is that since some medical facilities may lack personal protection equipment (PPE), there is a likelihood of medical workers catching the very disease they are fighting. Therefore, protecting health workers against these occupational hazards is very critical.
Several medical workers across the country have complained about not being paid their allowances and not getting adequate PPEs. Last week, Entebbe regional referral hospital told Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary, ministry of Health, that medical workers had not received their risk allowances for treating Covid-19 patients.
Dr Moses Muwanga, the hospital director, reminded Dr Diana Atwine that his team had not yet been paid risk allowances for two months.
These include 100 hospital workers including 70 frontline health workers. Each frontline worker earns between Shs 40,000 and Shs 80,000 per day while on duty.
Medical workers from Nakaseke hospital also complained recently about their delayed risk allowances. Strangely, Dr Atwine says Shs 164 billion was approved to cater for food and risk allowances for the frontline workers. Dr Atwine blamed the delay on the bureaucratic procedures in the ministry and bank transfer processes.
The irony is that it appears some armchair bureaucrats who determine the allowances of the frontline workers are making a killing, while the real foot soldiers (medical workers) who face the infinite risks have to beg for what is due to them.
Whatever the explanation, there is no justification for delaying to pay hazard allowances for workers who are working under extremely burdensome circumstances. It is unfair to milk the cow that you don’t adequately fed.