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Way Forward On The Ongoing Industrial Action by Uganda Medical Association

Uganda Medical Association (U.M.A) brings together over 7000 Medical Doctors in Ugandan and the diaspora. Our twin mission is welfare and professionalism of our members to deliver equitable and quality health and healthcare to the population of Uganda.

Recently (U.M.A) launched phase one of the industrial action with medical interns under FUMI on 8th/November 2021 after the delayed increment of the Medical Interns’ pay as was directed by the President in June this year. Two weeks later, on the 24th November 2021, U.M.A launched phase 2 of the industrial action by all doctors under U.M.A citing the following demands;
1. A supplementary budget to address the chronic lack of medical supplies and technologies by boosting the drug and none-drug medical equipment and supplies including Personal Protective Equipment for health workers across the country.
2. Employment of all Doctors and recruitment to all vacant jobs within the health establishment which would in turn, improve health service delivery to all Ugandans
3. A supplementary budget, with immediate effect, for salary enhancement of medical doctors at all levels including medical interns as per the Presidential directives.
4. Prioritization of welfare improvement for doctors outside of salary such as medical insurance, tax-free vehicles and tax-neutral building materials
as pledged by the President in 2017.
5. Compensation of all the families of health workers and doctors who have succumbed to COVID-19 in the line of duty as per the Workman’s Compensation Act 2000 with immediate effect.

Today marks the 14th day since we started our nationwide industrial action. We thank doctors for standing up and acting for the good of their nation and the health system in focusing government on issues that are critical for health and development and for standing up to be counted in this pursuit of social justice, not only for our patients and the public of Uganda but also for all health workers. The welfare of doctors is critical to the wellbeing and socio-economic development of any nation and should be given timely and close attention. This issue has been unaddressed for years.

These past 13 days, various committees of the U.M.A including the National Executive Committee (NEC), the Elders Forum, Regional Branch Executive committees, and many others have been actively engaging the Government of Uganda, the media, the public, and fellow health workers in an effort to come to a consensus. In the engagements of U.M.A with the government, we have had meetings with H.E the President of the Republic of Uganda, the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister, The Ministry of Health Top Management, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Public Service among many others.
We appreciate the openness of the government and their extended hand of support and commitment to fulfilling past pledges and current demands, we note though, that the same pledges remain written but not fulfilled since 2017.
Notably, in our engagements with the government, U.M.A NEC was invited by H.E The President of the Republic of Uganda on 23rd November 2021 to a meeting that was attended by officials from the different ministries at State House. We thank H.E The President for his kindness and for regarding our issues as critical and for giving us audience. Following our discussions, H.E The President responded positively to all our demands and gave specific directives to this effect which are all yet to be implemented. Thank you H.E Sir.
We acknowledge receipt of a written document on 24th November 2021 from the Office of the Prime Minister outlining resolutions from our meeting with H.E The President. However, some of the key issues were not given a clear implementation plan and timeframes. This prompted us to write back to the Rt. Hon Prime Minister asking her office to highlight some of these issues and to date, we haven’t received the desired feedback. We however thank The Rt Hon Prime minister for her support.
With thanks, U.M.A also engaged with Honorable Members of Parliament specifically the Workers’ MPs, and Members of the Parliamentary Committee of Health on 30th November 2021 who further discussed these issues and offered guidance on a number of them. They committed to work with U.M.A
in the follow-up and ensuring the implementation of some of the directives is reached. We thank these members of Parliament for understanding the plight of doctors and committing their time to this cause.
U.M.A NEC also met the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to the Treasury and his Team on the 1st December 2021, to follow up on the supplementary budget which was approved by Parliament to increase the pay for interns and senior House Officers and to further discuss the best way to implement the Presidential Directives and promise U.M.A had received from H.E The President. In this meeting, we were told that the money required to enhance the salary of all doctors as per the Presidential Directive will be put on the Budget paper framework for the next financial year.
Despite all the above engagements, we did not get incontrovertible evidence that our issues would be implemented as was discussed by H.E The President on 23rd November 2021. Based on this, we drafted an implementation plan with clear timeframes which was submitted to the office of the Prime Minister. In response, the Rt. Hon Prime Minister met with U.M.A NEC accompanied with members of the Elders forum and Workers MPs on 2nd November 2021 in her office. In this meeting, further discussions on the issues outlined in the Implementation Plan of the Presidential Directives aimed at improving doctors’ welfare were held. And several resolutions were reached. However, days later all our efforts in following up with the Prime Minister to get a copy of this implementation plan as a commitment by the government to our demands as we had discussed and agreed with her yielded nothing. This has caused demotivation among doctors and has been perceived by U.M.A members as reluctance by government offices to commit to timelines in the implementation of its pledges to U.M.A.

A meeting was held by Medical Doctors nationwide ion 04th December 2021, and an update was given in that meeting of all the engagements and discussions thus far. Doctors overwhelmingly decided to continue with the current Industrial Action and stay at home until at least some of the demands are met. These demands to be implemented right away include; The Interns and Senior House Officers salary increment , as directed by the President this year, duty-free cars for medical doctors and the fulfillment of the 4billion pledge to the Sacco as directed by the President.
Many promises have been made on the matter of doctor’s welfare in Uganda, it is time to see that our Government to take that great step to actually implement them. Medical Doctors across the country remain dedicated to serving our fellow Ugandans and offering our services to our patients. Addressing medical doctor welfare issues is critical for the socio- economic development of Uganda and addressing these concerns will be a great win for the development of our nation. Doctor’s wellbeing is the nation’s well-being.

Finally, in a special way, U.M.A thanks H.E The President of the Republic of Uganda, and the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister for these continued engagements and the government’s commitment to continued dialogue with medical doctors regarding their welfare. We also thank the Worker’s MPs for their commitment to the cause of improving medical doctors’ welfare. U.M.A thanks all the Government ministries who have engaged with us as we advocate for an improved health and healthcare system. U.M.A thanks the media fraternity; members of the fourth estate, for the good work and service. U.M.A thanks to everyone working towards improvement of Doctors Welfare and a better health system Uganda.
We urge all medical workers to stay committed to ethics and professionalism during this time and to make sure that the emergency wards remain functional as specified in the U.M.A Emergency Cover Plan circulated to doctors earlier. We continue to encourage Doctors to keep calm and be patient as they stay home until we communicate our next course of action.
We remain committed to quality healthcare and welfare of medical doctors in Uganda and the sustainable development of this great nation.

Service with Honour