A member of President Museveni’s cabinet has told Parliament that government did not fire striking medical interns.
On December 10, Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director general of health services at the Ministry of Health, directed all striking intern doctors to vacate hospital premises to pave way for an incoming batch.
But even when DG Dr Mwebesa made it clear to the interns they were now on their own, junior Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan Affairs Minister Kyofatogabye Kabuye has told Parliament’s Committee on Government Assurance and Implementation didn’t chase the interns because of their industrial action but rather because they had completed their internship.
“They should leave because they have finished their internship for the second lot to come in, but it is not that they are being sent away because they are striking,” said Minister Kabuye, who was representing the presidency ministry in this committee appearance.
But in his letter to hospital directors, Dr Mwebesa told the striking interns to look for ways of completing their remaining two months of internship. (Read that letter here).
Speaking during the launch of the accelerated Covid19 vaccination campaign launch at Biharwe HCIII in Mbarara on December 13, health minister Aceng insisted that interns who were unwilling to work should “just leave our premises because there is nothing they are doing there.”
Also attending this meeting were officials from the ministry of public service, led by junior minister Grace Mugasa.
Committee chairperson Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality – NUP) demanded answers on why the ministry had failed to implement President Museveni’s directives to increase medical doctors’ salaries starting July 2021.
“Instead of listening to their concerns, you are threatening them with dismissal. Interns are working and learning at the same time. If you kick them off, are you not affecting their education and the service they provide in the health facilities?” asked Nambooze.
“Is the Ministry of Health fair to say that interns are not government employees and that they have never recruited them and even threatening to send them away?”
In response, Minister Mugasa said her ministry would consider hiring interns as government employees.
“Health for our citizens is paramount and indeed, the interns are not yet employees of government but are our partners and that is why we have included their enhancement here,” said Mugasa.
“In the future they will be employed by government.”
Health service commission chairperson Prof Pius Okong said: “The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health cannot plan for Interns. It cannot budget their allowances due to the uncertainty of their numbers.”