The Ministry of Finance has started implementing a presidential directive to increase lunch allowances for nurses and midwives to improve their working conditions.
This was revealed as the ministry released the funds for the first quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year, which largely focused on the health sector and more specifically on the fight against COVID-19. In total 5,673.28 billion has been released for the first quarter, representing 25 per cent of the approved government budget, excluding external financing and public debt.
“The quarter has given priority to the health sector and other supporting sectors because the country needs to get back to normalcy soon in order to sustain the economy,” says Patrick Ocailap the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance.
For this, a supplementary expenditure of 206 billion Shillings was provided for the health sector largely to cater for the requirements for controlling the pandemic. At least 94.9 billion Shillings will be spent on the provision of oxygen, while 67.5 billion Shillings will go towards logistical expenses, staff expenses and case management, among others.
Hospital infrastructure including Intensive Care and High Dependency Units and hospital beds have been given 11.5 billion Shillings and another 27.8 billion Shillings goes to the revitalization of the Village Health Teams, which Ocailap says, will be vital in containing the second wave of the pandemic. 218 billion has been released for the purchase of vaccines.
While announcing the release of the funds Ocailap said they have responded to the demands by the nurses and midwives demand and the presidential directive, by releasing Ushs32.3 billion for the first quarter that starts July 1.
The release for quarter one caters for requirement to increase Nurses and Midwives lunch allowances. In May this year, the health workers went on strike over lunch allowances estimated at 70 billion Shillings, which they said was meant to cater for 26,000 nurses and midwives at a rate of Ushs15,000 per health worker, per day.
They have been entitled to between Ushs2,000 and 3,000 daily for lunch which they said was not even enough for a cup of tea.
The President of the Union, Justus Cherop Kiplangat, says that President Yoweri Museveni in 2018 promised to see the allowances increased to Ushs15,000 per day, but this had never been effected.
According to Ocailap, the workers will now be paid between Ushs10,000 and 15,000 per day, depending on the salary scale.
Now, Cherop says there should be no excuses for absenteeism from work by the nurses, since the government had agreed to meet their demands, adding that they expect that even other areas of their remuneration will be improved with time.
Last year, the then State Minister for Health Robinah Nabbanja said the plans had been affected by the outbreak of Covid-19 which required reallocation of resources to deal with the pandemic.
The strike ended a week later after government said it had earmarked 44.9 billion Shillings towards providing a daily lunch allowance of Ushs10,000 for 22 days.
Workers’ Representative in Parliament Dr. Byakatonda Abdulhu urged the Ministry of Public Service and that of Finance to update the payroll so that payment is effected.
He has called on the government to ensure that even demand by other sections of the health sector are met soon, so that the human resource part of the problem is solved.