East Africa

Medics need better treatment, not threats

President Yoweri Museveni has urged children to opt for science subjects.

KAMPALA, UGANDA: President Yoweri Museveni has urged children to opt for science subjects.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, he consistently said scientists should be paid a lot better than other ordinary public workers. He says it is easier to replace an administrator but harder to find a science teacher.

At public universities, scholarships to arts-pursuing students have reduced considerably while those for scientists have increased. But President Museveni’s failure to deliver on his promise to improve the working conditions and salaries of scientists or health workers works counter to his public proclamations on science education.

Public hospitals and other health units have been in some form of paralysis. Midwives, nurses, clinical officers, orthopedics, laboratory officers, pharmaceuticals technicians, among others, laid down their tools last week demanding government to implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of 2018.

In that CBA, it was agreed that the certificate holders should be paid Shs 1.3m, diploma holders Shs 3m and degree holders Shs 4.8m. The government has responded with threats of dismissal.

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The prime minister, Robinah Nabbanja has characterized the strike as blackmail. She said the government would not bow to blackmail and those who feel they cannot take what government is giving them should quit and give room to those who can take what is paid!

This was the same response given to the medical interns when they demanded for their unpaid allowances. How can the country create and nurture an army of reliable scientists when the future appears uncertain and salaries are miserable?

It is also interesting that the state has often been able to pay high medical bills for very important persons, but it they cannot find money to pay medical workers who take care of the majority of Ugandans. Salaries affect the health workers’ performance. Some of these health workers do not have alternative means of income and they are expected to work 24/7.

Perhaps now the discussion needs to shift from the president to another body. It appears the country needs a remuneration commission to determine appropriate salaries and perks for all public workers.

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