Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, the health state minister addressing journalist.PHOTO/Lilia Babirye

Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, the health state minister addressing journalist.PHOTO/Lilia Babirye

The donors warned recently after it emerged that Uganda was planning to send 300 health workers to Trinidad and Tobago. The Health minister Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye last week said he had met the Belgian International Development minister, Alexander De Croo, and they had agreed that Uganda stops the planned export.

Dr. Tumwesigye told MPs on the Health Committee on Monday that unless the move is halted, the Ministry will not receive the money as budget support for the next financial year and the subsequent years.

Belgium is one of the biggest development partner countries that provide scholarship to train medical specialists and other essential health workers.

?I have even held discussions with the Government of Belgium and they have vowed not to release the funds unless the move is halted,? he said.

Government in March announced that it will send 263 health professionals to work in Trinidad and Tobago.

Ministry of foreign affairs in a statement said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Trinidad and Tobago to allow Ugandan medical professionals serve for two years.

The ministry said it is government?s mandate to provide opportunities for those that do not have employment.

Among those required are 15 physicians, 20 psychologists, 20 radiologists, 15 pediatrics, 9 Ear Nose and Throat specialists, 4 anaethiastics, Ophthalmologists, 4 pathologists, 15 surgeons, urologists, 15 orthopedics, 15 gynecologists, 20 nursing officers and 100 registered midwives.

During the meeting, Tumwesigye said he had written a protest letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explaining why the move to export the workers should be stopped

In a letter dated April 17, Dr. Tumwesigye said the export of workers poses a threat to service delivery in its current composition of Government health workers who constitute about 61%.

?The sending of health workers presents serious challenge since the majority of the shortlisted candidates are employed by government which will greatly affect service delivery,?

According to Dr. Tumwesigye, if all those shortlisted were successful, Uganda would be sending to Trinidad and Tobago over 90% of physicians, 50% pediatricians and gynecology and 30% of the surgeons in referral hospitals.

Out of 168 specialties needed in health facilities, only 65 are employed, accounting for only 39% of the required number.

?We cannot allow the exportation of health workers in the current form; we are all against this move because how do you export experts when some hospitals do not have even qualified nurses?? he asked.

In his letter, Tumwesigye argued that the process of labour movement from Uganda to other countries should be managed by the ministry of labour through development of appropriate policies, guidelines and regulations for labour movement, without disrupting social service delivery in the country.

He said the Ministry of health will continue to work on plans to improve on the welfare of workers to enhance attraction, motivation and retention of critically needed workforce particularly the specialists.

Tumwesigye was responding to MP Dr. Twatwa Mutwalante?s concern about the export of specialized health workers yet some hospitals do not have any.

During the meeting, the MPs demanded to know why the Ministry has not yet operationalized the HIV Act that was passed recently.

?The law provides for an HIV Fund but surprisingly we continue to beg for money. Why aren?t you implementing the law?? Committee chairman Dr. Medard Bitekyerezo asked.

Tumwesigye told the Committee that the regulations to operationalize the Act are ready and will soon be tabled to Parliament for approval.

By Mary Karugaba, The New Vision

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