After hours of waiting in a long queue at a health facility in central Uganda, Jackie Namasaba gave up after no doctor turned up to see her.
Prossy Akello, another patient who had gone to seek treatment at Kira Health Center, also in central Uganda, expressed dismay after failing to see a doctor.
Thousands of patients in Uganda are paying a heavy price of going to private clinics following a doctors’ strike over salary and allowance increase. The doctors on duty are only attending to emergence cases.
Their industrial action which started on Monday has now entered day six.
The doctors have rejected a government call to end the strike which has left the public health care system in the East African country paralyzed.
“We shall not call off the strike unless the government addresses our grievances and concerns. We need good pay and friendly working conditions,” Ekwaro Obuk, president of Uganda Medical Association told Xinhua in an interview on Nov. 8.
Government now says the strike is illegal since the doctors never gave a formal 90-day notice and never followed the public service procedure in declaring industrial action.
“All medical workers who were misled to join the strike must resume duty with immediate effect,” said Jane Ruth Aceng, minister of health.
“All health workers who adhere to this directive shall not be subjected to any disciplinary action and shall be provided adequate protection by government,” she added.
Leila Mirembe, a doctor at Mulago Hospital, the country’s national referral hospital, told Xinhua that the doctors will only attend to emergency cases until government addresses their concerns.
The medics want government to increase salaries and duty allowances of health professionals, review the supply chain and management of medicines, vaccines and medical supplies.
Government has promised the doctors that it will soon complete the public servants salary harmonization exercise.
The strike has caused some mixed feelings among the public.
“Whereas we believe that our doctors deserve better in their enumeration and welfare, we the patients’ fraternity in Uganda are extremely concerned that the doctors have preferred an industrial action over saving lives and dialogue with government,” said Regina Kamoga, the chairperson of Uganda Alliance of Patients’ Organizations.
“We anticipate that the impact of the strike is already costing lives of many innocent patients, children and expectant mothers at wards,” she said.
Experts say the standoff between public hospital doctors and the government has pushed hundreds of low-income patients to flock to ill-equipped clinics as they had no cash to visit expensive private facilities. Enditem