Despite increment of salaries for doctors, it is emerging that financial rewards are not enough motivation for them to work.Consequently, a section of stakeholders wants the Government to reconsider an earlier proposal to import Cuban doctors.
The health minister, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, revealed she had received similar complaints regarding doctors’ poor attitude towards work. She expressed concern that while the proposal to import Cuban doctors had been shelved to pave way for a new salary structure, the revelations on the ground were disturbing.
“The Government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to import Cuban doctors, which has been put on hold because we thought salary enhancement would improve efficiency. But what we are hearing is not the case,” Aceng told a reproductive health assembly recently.
Her remarks followed concerns by members of the assembly who descried health worker absenteeism and poor retention.
“Our doctors do not want to work upcountry. We are begging you to please go back to the Cuban doctors idea. When the idea was brought,some people, including some MPs, made noise. However, when they are sick, they have access to specialized care. What happens to our population in the villages, where doctors do not want to work?” a participant from Kabale district asked.
Another member from Lyantonde district said:
“We have medical officers whose salaries have been enhanced,but you cannot find them anywhere. We are losing mothers (in labour.) Enhancing salary is not motivation to retain doctors”.
According to the revised salary scale released in May, a senior consultant earning sh3,447,065 would earn sh4,500,000, a consultant currently earning sh3,059,079 would earn sh4,200,000 and an enrolled nurse salary of sh413,158 would be increased to sh613,158.
The new scale followed protracted engagements with protesting doctors in November last year. For close to three weeks, patients in public health facilities were left stranded as doctors demanded better working conditions. At the height of the stalemate last year, President Yoweri Museveni defended the idea to import 200 specialized doctors from Cuba saying ‘‘some of our own behaved badly.’’
Minister Acengreiterated that the proposal would benefit people in hard to reach areas.
“TheMOU spelt that out clearly. The Cuban doctors would work in rural areas,” said Aceng.
However, the Uganda Medical Association president, Dr. Obuku Ekwaru, has previously rejected the proposal saying the Government should instead focus on improving health services. Besides remuneration, Ekwaru argues that doctors need equipment and drugs to work.
During the reproductive health meeting, Aceng asked stakeholders in the local government association to put into writing the petition in support of the Cuban doctors plan. The minister also had no kind words for sloppy district health officials.
“ I receive complaints from CAOs and local government who complain that you are not making an impact. You are a menu on my table. We are discussing you. You can advocate for better pay by doing your job,” Aceng said.