The Director, Health Monitoring Unit (HMU) in the Office of the President, Dr Jackson Ojera Abusu, has blasted leaders of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) over demands made that government increases salaries of medical doctors to Shs48 million per month.
Dr Abusu said the current state of the Ugandan economy cannot pay a doctor such amount money, even as some government officials today earn above that figure.
“Shs48 million is simply unsustainable for a developing country like Uganda,” he says, adding that UMA should not hold the Treasury at ransom.
“We would like to state categorically that while we associate with the plight of doctors and have actually been at the forefront in urging the government for better remuneration, we find some of the actions of UMA leadership as grossly misleading, frivolous and undermine public confidence in the health care sector,” he said in a Tuesday press release.
Dr Abusu said UMA should not advocate for the improvement of the emoluments of the medical personnel as it is not the official body to do that job.
“We are not aware if indeed this body (UMA) is registered as a labor union,” he said, arguing that it should be the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council to take grievances of medical workers to government since it was established under the laws of Uganda.
He said that if UMA members decide to strike as declared earlier, the patients in Ugandan hospitals will suffer worse. “We believe there are more appropriate avenues of engaging government,” he said.
According to Dr. Abusu, doctors who neglect patients leading their death stand to be punished. “We have noted with concern that whilst a good number of medical professionals are doing a commendable job, there is also a rise in cases of professional malpractice, often leading to rash and negligent deaths,” he says.
He asked UMA to desist from what he called ‘criminal activities’ including calling for strikes. He said that whereas the professional council can investigate the administrative issues in the medical profession, it does not take away the jurisdiction of police and courts of law to handle the criminal aspects involved.
Dr Abusu’s response comes following the recent media reports in which UMA said it would soon call to action all doctors employed in the public service to lay down their tools if their salary demands are not met.
He said Government is already working on a proposal to harmonize all civil servants pay, including doctors. He has appealed to health workers to exercise more patience and continue to carry out their duty of treating Ugandans bearing in mind the Hippocratic Oath.
“UMA should work hand in hand with other statutory bodies to ensure the highest ethical and professional standards,” he said, adding that the UMA should desist from inciting its members to strike without consultation with the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council.
In the same vein, he said, UMA should desist from passing off as the official body of doctors mandated by law.
“UMA should not over step its jurisdiction,” Dr. Abusu said.
Meanwhile, Dr Abusu says HMU has since 2009 made asset recoveries worth Shs15.862 billion, of which three billion was hard cash. The other recoveries were medicines, health supplies, equipment.
Further, he said, a total of 22,348,728 nets were distributed in 7,912,026 households in 111 districts and that over Shs 37m that had been stolen in the process by sub-county supervisors, recovered.
He said Mbarara, Sheema, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kagadi, Wakiso and Kampala will receive nets by December this year.
In 2016/ 17, Dr Abusu says the HMU recovered GAVI funds worth Shs 846.396 million which was unaccounted for from 80 districts and Shs13.266 billion meant for Polio and measles vaccination programs.
In August this year, he added, the unit recovered unaccounted funds worth Sh 13.058 million in the Teso Region . They had been given to Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Kaberamaido, Serere DLG, Vision Terudo in Ngora, and Kumi DLG by Baylor College.
Investigations and legal actions since 2009 led to 610 cases of which 249 have been prosecuted, 93 convicted, 14 acquitted, 42 cases dismissed, 36 handled administratively and 36 cases still pending, Dr. Abusu says.
The unit also recovered 11 stolen hospital beds worth Shs.18m for Mulago Hospital; hospital beds worth Shs.19m for Kayunga district, a fibre boat worth Sh.120m donated to support referral of maternal and child emergencies in Namayingo district and vehicle worth Shs30 million-belonging to the health ministry.