The State Minister of Health in charge General Duties, Sarah Opendi has revealed that absenteeism among medical workers in public health facilities is here to stay, a thing that will leave Ugandans who seek medical treatment from the facilities in question demoralized.
The Minister made the remarks during a plenary sitting Wednesday where she noted that the Ministry of Health is still grappling with challenge of absentee doctors occasioned by the poor remuneration that isn’t attractive enough for them to work in Government health facilities.
This was after Lira Woman MP, Joy Atim tasked the Minister of Health to explain why there are no specialists in the hospitals, saying that this has rendered interns idle yet they are supposed to be supervised by the consultants. She gave an example of Lira hospital where specialists are non-existent.
Opendi said the Health Ministry had agreed to turn all regional referral hospitals into teaching hospitals, implying that interns would be posted there and trained by the senior consultants, but this hasn’t materialized since specialists continue to shun public health facilities.
“… the Health Service Commission has advertised for consultants and senior consultants but the pay is still low and not attractive [for specialists] to work for us in Government,” Opendi said.
She added that the specialists that take up these positions, work once or twice a week, and said this can only be solved by revising remuneration of consultants.
“Until we address the issue of remuneration of these senior consultants, we shall not be able to attract them in our health facilities. We came up with an ideal structure, however, Government wasn’t able to pay those wages and we agreed that maybe in a phased manner, we shall be able to address this,” she said, adding that although Ugandans are losing lives due to absence of doctors, there is no reason why a senior consultant who earns Shs3M in Uganda can fail to take up a job in Kenya and Rwanda where he/she would be paid Shs10M.
“I mean what attracts him? The issue of absenteeism is because they work for Government 2-3days and they move. Slowly we hope, we shall be able to address this but it remains a big challenge, if a senior consultant, what attracts him and now that we are going into next budgeting cycle, I think we need to look at this further,” the Minister said.
The development comes at the time when the report on the Ministerial Policy statement by for the Ministry of Health 2018/2019 highlighted the plight of inadequate health personnel putting the national average at 73% as at June 2017.
The report highlighted that biggest problem in staffing gap lies in Health Center II whose level stands at 53% and at general hospital level with an average of 68% and the same challenge is faced at Uganda Cancer and Heart Institutes whose human resource gaps stand at 54% and 62% respectively.