Doctors want interns deployed as medical officers on probation

Doctors under their umbrella Uganda Medical Association (UMA) want medical interns to be placed into hospitals as medical officers on probation.

UMA president Dr Richard Idro said that the Ministry of Health is setting up a committee to come up with a document on how to handle medical worker promotions, which he says should be used to allow interns to be enrolled as medical workers on probation and therefore get salaries that suit that status.

He was meeting interns to discuss the status of the Internship Policy 2020. In the meeting, both outgoing and incoming interns expressed concerns that they are overworked and paid peanuts under the guise of still being students in training yet they enroll for the one-year internship after graduating as medical doctors. Interns are paid about 700,000 Shillings a month.

However, Dr Idro says they had a meeting with the Health Service Commission last week and asked the government to have intern nurses, doctors and pharmacists employed under public service structures.

But the proposals were opposed last year by Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng declaring that interns are not entitled to salary because they are still under apprenticeship training.

In fact, in the draft internship policy being processed, the proposal is to have government-funded medical students stay in hospitals they are attached to for two years for bonding. They also propose a longer internship duration of years and that medical interns do an exam both pre and post-internship before they formally get certificates to practice as doctors.

However, when these among others were first proposed in 2016, medical interns rushed to court and placed an injunction on this move. They also petitioned Parliament with several demands to improve their welfare but this petition is still pending awaiting a policy.

Now, Idro says the Ministry of Health has indicated that the draft policy can only be fast-tracked if they withdraw the court order.

But the medical interns maintain that the ministry’s position can only be considered if they know the terms and how they will benefit. Dr Fauz Kavuma, who headed the interns then and sought the order says towing this line needs to be done carefully as there is a lot that didn’t go right that time. He says internship was shifted from August to October and rotations were changed without consultation.

For Idro however, the queries by medical workers about the policy are few and can be easily solved. He picked on the proposal to have interns do an exam that confirms them ready for practice after the fifth year.

Dr Herbert Luswata, who heads the Federation of Uganda Medical Interns said that while they started the internship with a strike arising from deplorable working conditions, nothing much changed throughout as many of his colleagues couldn’t find accommodation. He adds that although they were supposed to be inducted to introduce them to hospital settings or work environment, only 5 percent of them were inducted.

Incoming interns will be deployed in hospitals on October 1, according to Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director-General of Health Services at MOH. Currently, they are getting temporary registration from their professional councils, a process that ends on Friday.

Source: Uganda Radio Network