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Striking Doctors Petition Court Over Directive To Vacate Hospital Premises

The striking doctors under their umbrella Associations (UMA), Uganda Medical Association and Federation for Uganda Medical Interns (FUMI) have petitioned the High Court in Kampala seeking to quash the directive from the Ministry of Health directing them to vacate their respective hospitals.

The umbrella Associations have together with a civil society organization Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development-CEHURD sued the Attorney General alongside Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the Director General Health Services in the Ministry of Health for his December 10th directive to striking doctors.

In their application filed before the Civil Division of the High Court, the doctors contend that on May 17th 2021, they went on a nationwide sit down strike to collectively bargain for better working conditions, better remuneration, improved accommodation, salary increment among others.

As such, the evidence submitted to court shows that on June 1st, 2021, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni met their leadership and directed that the pay for medical interns be enhanced to at least half of the recommended pay of their fully appointed officers in respective professional lines with effect from July 2021.

However, failure to implement the aforementioned directive, the doctors resumed their nationwide strike on November 6th 2021 saying that until the directive that enhances their salaries is implemented they were not going back to hospitals.

To their surprise, the court records show that on December 10th 2021, Dr. Mwebesa directed all the Hospital Directors/Medical Superintendents to dismiss or have all the doctors on strike to vacate the hospital premises within one week from the date of his letter.

Through their lawyers of CEHURD, Tangle Advocates and Spring Advocates, the applicants argue that the nationwide strikes or industrial actions are one of the legally acceptable means of collectively bargaining for better working conditions, enhanced wages among others and that in reaching the contentious decision, the doctors were neither consulted nor heard.

They further argue that two days ago, they wrote to Dr. Mwebesa and copied in the Attorney General requesting them to recall the directive and decision directing them to vacate premises but in vain and efforts to dialogue have been futile.

According to the applicants, the said directive is illegal and breached the Intern Doctors right to a fair hearing and legitimate expectation to complete their medical training and get fully registered with their professional councils as Medical Officers, Pharmacists and Nurses Midwives respectively.

The application is supported by three affidavits including one for Dr. Faith Nabushawo the Secretary General of FUMI who also doubles as the Deputy Secretary General of UMA, Noor Musisi Nakibuuka the Director of Programmes at CEHURD and UMA President Dr Samuel Odongo Oledo who say are all aggrieved.

In his affidavit, Dr Nabushawo contends that the President had agreed to increase their net pay from 750,000 shillings and while they undertake training, they are supposed to be appropriately remunerated accorded a fair and transparent professional development, provide a safe working environment and decent accommodation as per the Second National Health Policy of 2010.

On his part, CEHURD’s Musisi contends that under the constitution, the respondents are obliged to adhere and uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms of workers without prejudice, all directives relating to medical interns must be given by the appointing office and Dr. Mwebesa has no mandate whatsoever to make such directives.

“The decision to dismiss medical interns from training centers also has an overreaching effect on health care service delivery given that the ministry of health is still grappling with inadequate human resources for health at all levels,” reads the affidavit by Musisi.

According to the applicants, unless court weighs in and quashes Dr. Mwebesa’s directive, the rights of Medical Interns will be violated and Ugandans that access health care services from internship training centers will be grossly affected.

They now want court to quash the directive on grounds that it’s irrational, arbitrary and procedurally wrong and unjustified.

They further want a temporary injunction restraining the Hospital Directors and Medical Superintendents from implementing the decision in issue until the main case challenging its legality has been determined.

The petition by striking doctors and CEHURD has come at the time when Ministry of Health’s Permanent Secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine has written to all Hospital Medical Directors and Superintendents to furnish her office with the updated data base for Interns and Senior Health Officers by December 20th 2021.

Dr. Atwine says she got confirmation from the Finance Ministry that money to pay them will soon be released.

-URN

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