During the recent May Day celebrations in Sembabule District recently, and in his address, President Yoweri Museveni, accused the Ugandan doctors of being “enemies” of the people. Frustration can be understandable all round about the situation surrounding this drastic statement.
Simmering disagreements have been going on for most of the year between the Government and the doctors about their remuneration. It led to the doctors’ strike, admittedly with undue consequences to the people. Obviously, many patients died as a lack of medical attention.
Subsequently, the Government revised the doctors’ salaries and allowances, upwards, but the doctors regarded this as inadequate. And they have threatened a further industrial action, if this and other conditions, they regard as unsatisfactory in their employment, are not equitably addressed.
The Government’s reaction has been to reach out to Cuba to get doctors to fill the gap of the intending striking Ugandan doctors. However, many people in the country argue that this is not the remedy for the situation in Uganda’s medical position. Admittedly, Cuban doctors, and its medical service, is probably the best in the world; that moreover, in a disdained Communist country.
However, firstly, the Ugandan doctors are saying that they would do with the amount of money that their foreign counterparts have been promised. In any case, they also say that another problem they are agitating for is lack of equipment that they should be using. And bringing in the Cubans, without solving this attendant problem, will not solve the issues.
As they lack the equipment, they also probably lack the technical training that the Cuban doctors have got benefit of. Moreover, at the other level of this confrontation is a strike by Uganda’s intern doctors, also blaming the Government for not giving them their outstanding allowances.
Clearly, all the concerns that all the doctors are putting forward, are not being looked at within the all the range of their employment. Whereas, hiring the Cubans may temporarily solve the problem, in the long run, it needs Uganda to develop its own capacity for medical services as the Cubans have done.
As this is happening, a former doctor of the President, Dr. Kizza Besigye, has weighed in, blaming the Government of wasting its whole 32 years in power without sorting out the medical situation; that is about half the time the Cuban revolution has been in power. And now, as an Opposition leader, Besigye, is in an enviable position to advise the Government, at least, in this area.
Rather than blaming the doctors, calling them names, the Government should take a hard look at the situation of the payment of the Civil Servants. It is not only the doctors who are striking, or threatening it, but there are other categories of workers who are demanding a similar kind of remuneration, on the threat of laying down their tools.
Is Government going to call them enemies, too? Or, were the Government to solve their problems, would not the state of affairs in the whole Ugandan work place be amicable