THE remaining 45% of the Ugandan health professionals selected for the temporary two-year employment in Trinidad and Tobago are from the public sector
By Innocent Anguyo
OFFICIALS of Uganda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs have revealed that 55% of the country's 263 health professionals destined for work in Trinidad and Tobago were sourced from a pool of workers who were either unemployed or working in the private sector.
The remaining 45% of the Ugandan health professionals selected for the temporary two-year employment in the Caribbean country are from the public sector.
With at least 722 Ugandans having applied for the jobs, the 459 medics who did not get the jobs included public workers whose heads of department declined to endorse their applications.
James Mugume, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an address to the press, yesterday said public health professionals were required to get clearance from their respective heads of department before they could participate in the recruitment process.
"This was to make sure that the departure of health professionals would not cripple their units. The heads of department also had to guarantee that an employee who went abroad would be replaced. People who are irreplaceable can't be allowed to leave," explained Mugume.
After completing their service in the Caribbean, the 263 maiden cohort of health professionals will then be replaced by another contingent from Uganda- a cycle, that ministry of foreign affairs says will continue for as long as there is demand in Trinidad and Tobago.
From Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago is seeking- four anesthetists; four ear, nose and throat experts; four ophthalmologists; five pathologists; one neurosurgeon; two speech and language therapists; four psychiatrists; four urologists; 15 general surgeons; 15 orthopedic medics; 15 physicians; 15 obstetricians and gynecologists; 15 pediatricians; 20 radiologists; 20 nursing officers; 100 registered midwives and 20 public health nurses.
Mugume said the governments of Uganda and Trinidad and Tobago are nearing conclusion of a memorandum of understanding that will regulate the recruitment. Cabinet and parliament are equally expected have say in the terms of employing Ugandans in Trinidad and Tobago.
All this comes at a time when critics have accused the ministry of foreign affairs of attempting to deplete Uganda's medical personnel granary by "exporting" professionals when the country's health sector is already crippled by shortage of medics.
The Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR), a Ugandan think-tank, is suing the government, whilst seeking an interim injunction to halt the "imminent" "export" of the workers.
In a petition filed in the High Court in December, the IPPR argues that government recruitment of public health workers for another government violates the constitutional rights of Ugandans to access basic medical services.
The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) statistical abstract 2014 reveals that, by the end of last year, there were 57,050 approved vacant posts in government structure, of which 35,903 were filled, leaving 21,152.
Alluding to the fact that Uganda's public service has limited absorptive capacity, Mugume therefore argued that, finding foreign employment opportunities for medics hailing from Uganda will not only expose them to modern practices but equally reduce unemployment.
By 2010, UBOS put unemployment among Uganda's working age population at 480,300.
55% of Caribbean jobs go to private medics