Health workers in Uganda, have announced they will go on strike, on 5 November,2021 if government fails to actualize its pledge of compensating families for health workers who perished on the frontlines while fighting Covid-19 disease.
Under their umbrella body-Uganda Medical Association (UMA), the health workers threatened to lay down their tools, in protest of government failure to fulfil its long time pledge of compensating families of their fellows who died on the frontline.
In August this year the health workers wrote to responsible stakeholders, including ministry of health, parliament and ministry of public service, which is charged with the responsibility of catering for government workers’ salaries.
In the letter, they gave the government an ultimatum of 90 days to compensate them, or else they lay down their tools. From the time they wrote to the health ministry up to now, 85 days have passed and only five days are remaining to the expiry of the ultimatum.
The health workers decried the government ‘s laxity in compensating them, on grounds they were at a greater risk of contracting Covid-19, and that they lost their colleagues during the fight against the deadly disease.
They want government to pay them for damages and compensate families of the bereaved. In addition, they also want their colleagues who contracted the deadly disease and recovered, to also be compensated.
Ministry of health has an initiative, in which it disburses funds termed as “risk allowances ” which are supposed to be paid to medical practitioners and other workers at a high risk of contracting deadly diseases while doing their work.
They contended that this money was not used to facilitate and secure their fellows who were working tooth and nail to defeat the covid -19 pandemic, and save lives.
They also want government to fulfil its promise of health workers’ salary increment, something they allege has been talked about since 2017, but not actualized.
Dr. Mukuzi Muhereza, the general secretary of Uganda Medical Association said that even the number of medical workers in the country is very low, standing at 60% of the required total, something which he said has hampered service delivery in most health centres.
He also complained that government has on several occasions pledged to deploy more health workers, but up to now, it has been silent on the matter.
These workers contend that their colleagues, amounting up to 2700 got infected with Covid-19 while doing their work, and that others totaling up to 50 died due to lack of enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and the absence of a clear strategy to protect them from contracting the deadly disease.
Dr. Muhereza also explained that much as the spread of Covid-19 disease has drastically slowed down in the country, there are no efforts put in place to see to it that health workers are secured, which would prevent the disease from spreading further, without locking down the country.
“Regarding lockdown, we would do two things. First, early preparation which we are not witnessing now, we are not well prepared. Equipment to use, like designating and well equipping special areas from where to treat these patients is not being witnessed. Secondly, government should have made enough preparations after the first lockdown, as you know, there was a time when we could not even have a single patient of Covid-19 and many wards were closed. I think we aquired false confidence, we thought we had completely difeated the disease. We are tasking the government, that for example; if it is an invasion by Kony rebels, how would we fight, some thing we are not witnessing,” he explained.
Dr Muhereza added that their colleagues contracted the deadly disease due to lack of enough equipment to use while doing their work, and persistent delays in delivery of these items to various health centres.
Efforts by this website, to reach out to government officials for a comment on why these health workers, and families of the bereaved have not been compensated have so far proven futile.
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