The striking doctors have today called for the resignation of health minister Jane Ruth Aceng and her Permanent Secretary Diana Atwine, accusing the two of failing to offer guidance to the government regarding their pay package.
Two weeks ago the medics under their umbrella organization, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) opted for industrial action protesting government failure to increase their salaries and improving their working conditions.
Since then government has asked and threatened them to resume their duties, but the doctors have insisted that government first addresses their concerns.
“Medics want Doctor Aceng and Doctor Atwine to resign,” UMA chairperson Dr. Ekwaru Obuku said, as he sought his colleagues’ views during a ‘dialogue’ held at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
The ‘dialogue’ was attended by among others health minister Dr. Aceng and her PS Dr. Atwine; the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Matia Kasaija and his state minister for planning David Bahati, all of who urged the medics to “be patient for only two weeks” for Parliament to finalize the bill the will regulate comprehensive salary structure of all civil servants.
‘’People are dying; one expectant mother died in Jinja kindly resume your duties,” Minister Kasaija pleaded to no avail.
“We are not children who can just be told what to do; you are only stopping water from falling down but have not stopped the tap from flowing. You have talked to us but you have not solved the problem,” Dr Obuku told the government team.
He added: “We can’t be intimidated about losing jobs because we are prepared to hold onto our demands and ready to take the next step since government vowed to take on ‘Plan B’. You can’t tell us laws because law students push papers and medical workers and interns save lives.”
Dr Obuku challenged the government ‘to be serious’, arguing that poor neighbouring countries like Rwanda and South Sudan pay doctors better. “Why not Uganda?” he wondered, and further challenged the health minister on her assertions that the UMA is not a recognised organization.
“We are illegal as Dr. Aceng said but legitimate; President Museveni was once illegal but because he was legitimate he managed to change the then government,” he said.
“You can do nothing to me because I don’t work for government; I will give it to you straight and that is what I have done. Let’s address the problem and leave Obuku alone, I want to sleep at my home” Dr. Obuku concluded.
Then Workers MP Sam Lyomoki weighed in, saying the government team was ‘powerless’ to negotiate with the striking medics.
“I have never before met such six powerless ministers like ones that have met doctors; they have no solution to the doctors demands,” Lyomoki, who is also a doctor, said.
He then turned to the health minister and her PS, saying: “In an attempt to please their master ‘President Museveni’, the Ministry of Health officials (Dr.Aceng and Dr. Atwine) are disgracing their profession.”