'Cabinet has not yet approved this proposal, but even when it does, these Cuban doctors will deal with hard-to-reach rural areas'
PIC: President Yoweri Museveni meeting scientists from Cuba. This was at State House Entebbe on May 14. The proposal to import Cuban doctors awaits Government's approval
CUBAN DOCTORS- The proposal to replace Ugandan doctors with Cubans in far to reach medical facilities might not materialise very soon as it awaits Government’s approval.
According to the Minister for Health, Dr. Ruth Aceng, cabinet has not yet made a final decision on the plan to import over 200 doctors from Cuba.
“Cabinet has not yet approved this proposal, but even when it does, these Cuban doctors will deal with hard-to-reach rural areas and others will be recruited as specialists to train interns at a fee of $1500 (about sh5m) monthly,” said Aceng.
She was yesterday responding to queries raised during a debate to scrutinize the health sector ministerial policy statement for the 2018/19 financial year.
In the recent past, media has been awash with a pros and cons public debate on whether Government should hire Cuban doctors to reinforce the native workforce especially in rural areas.
“When we advertise for specialists to work in remote areas, no applications are submitted so what do we do? They all want to work here (urban centers) where they can juggle work in several private facilities, a behavior that is not possible in rural areas,” she said.
During Labor Day celebrations early this month, President Yoweri Museveni revealed that he mothered the proposal to import the Cuban doctors because the Ugandan ones were striking and indiscipline.
However, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) that led a strike last year, crippling health services for several weeks, insists that there demand for better pay and working conditions is legitimate.
Aceng reiterated government’s commitment towards improving the health sector by recruiting and retaining specialists and medical officers whose salary will be enhanced in the next financial year.
The proposed enhanced salary structure indicates that, medical officers will earn Sh3.7m, while consultants will get Sh4.2m and senior consultants will earn Sh4.5m.
Michael Bukenya the Bukuya county MP criticized Government for such a proposal that will in turn demoralizes the local medics yet the Cubans can’t meet the demands in the sector.
“We are saying that let the health service commission advertise those jobs in rural areas at sh5m, with all the other benefits, including housing and see if doctors will not go there,” Bukenya said.
Some observers have on the other hand argued that although the issue of meager salaries is valid, cases of indiscipline, carelessness and corruption have enormously been recorded among medical practitioners, a trend that needs to be changed.
Robert Musoke (Budiope West County) blamed the absenteeism of health workers in health centres on the absence of drugs and equipment while Jack Wamai Wamanga (Mbale Municipality) urged government to implement the Abuja Declaration, which directed governments to appropriate 15 per cent of their budgets to the health sector.