| KAMPALA— Government has paid two months of the four months allowance arrears it owes the more than 850 intern doctors across all the public referral hospitals in the country.
The allowance disbursements, the interns confirmed to this newspaper, were made on February 11, days after a story by this newspaper revealed that government had not paid the interns their stipend for three months.
“We were paid arrears for only the months of November and December and promised to be paid another installment in March,” one of the interns told this newspaper Friday, but complaining that the ministry still paid them less of the money they are entitled to get.
“We were paid Shs1.2m for the two months arrears, meaning each month was Shs600,000 instead of the Shs850,000 and, minus accommodation allowances despite our earlier complaints,” he added.
Dr Jackson Amone, the assistant commissioner Integrated Curative Services at the Ministry of Health when contacted, confirmed the payment and explained that the problem comes as a result of augmented number of interns against a constant budget.
“The number keeps increasing, we used to pay them (interns) money every month when we had only 350 interns but right now, the number has increased to 870, almost three times what we used to have,” Dr Amone said.
He added that the Finance ministry only releases money on a quarterly basis yet it is not enough to pay all the interns for the three months that is why the ministry was only able to pay for two months.
“Our hands are tied, if we are to prioritise interns, it means we would spend between Shs7 and Shs10 billion annually, to pay all the interns adequately. But the situation comes with the upcoming universities, which do not consult us when they are starting to train medical students, so that we can advise them to only train a small number that can be absorbed,” Dr Amone said.
He added: “The only time we interface with them is when they come to apply for internship.”
The payments come on the backdrop of a rift that developed between the Health ministry and the interns after the former’s proclamation that the interns were free to leave if they were not satisfied as Mulago could do without interns.
The statement by the Permanent Secretary, Dr Asuman Lukwago, attracted criticism across the medical circles rebuking the utterances which were attributed to the mass exodus of doctors to neighbouring countries.
Dr Ekwaro A. Obuku, the general secretary, Uganda Medical Association, in his opinion titled; Health sector can’t do without interns published in the Daily Monitor of February 21, said without intern doctors, nurses and pharmacists, Mulago hospital would close.
The Monitor (Kampala)