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Uganda Medical Association Opts to Export Doctors to Rwanda, UK

Dr Herbert Luswata, the UMA President

The Uganda Medical Association (UMA), has started a process of helping medical workers secure jobs abroad.

Speaking to our reporter in an interview on Thursday, Dr Herbert Luswata, the UMA President said the decision to send colleagues to the neighboring Rwanda and the United Kingdom comes amidst concerns that many of them remain unemployed and a futile push to government to have them recruited into public service.

The doctor says that in some government-run hospitals like Moroto Regional Referral Hospital, doctors had resolved to offer voluntary work as they await to be added to the payroll but when the export opportunity came up, many expressed interest.

While the Rwanda government has already recruited some, Luswata reveals they have also scheduled meetings with UK government where doctors will be briefed on offers available for them to apply.

About three hundred doctors have registered to attend this briefing which happens on Monday.

However, the idea of exporting doctors yet the country operates with appalling patient-to-doctor ratios of approximately 1:25 000 against the 1:1000 recommended by the World Health Organization has previously been controversial with the last botched attempt ten years ago when the government signed a contract to export more than two hundred key specialists to Trinidad and Tobago.

This development is specifically worrisome considering that there are currently wide regional disparities in the country as far as the distribution of health workers is concerned.

Whereas over 80% of the medical personnel are concentrated in Kampala and its metropolis, the rest of the country has to share the remaining 20% of the health workers.

Also, statistics show over 40% of positions in the health service are yet to be filled around Uganda’s public health facilities.

Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health services said they had not discussed with the medical association about this.

“They are doing it on an individual basis for those unemployed health workers but we are aware there are many doctors, about 2000 who are currently looking for employment,” he wrote to our reporter on Friday.

However, experts have previously warned the government about the danger of such unrestricted medical brain drain.

In 2021 for instance,  while launching a report titled ‘Drain to Gain’ in which experts highlighted the role of the UK in building ethical international recruitment strategies for health workers, Prof Francis Omaswa a health researcher and formerly a top official in the Ministry of health expressed a need to create a global pool of health workers to form a code that would stop unregulated export but also ensure that health workers earn appropriately no matter where they are practicing from in the world.

But, Luswata says countries like the UK are offering better conditions for medical workers especially since they have a big aging population and as a result several African countries have resorted to linking their medical workers there.

Meanwhile, estimates by the World Health Organization show there will be an estimated shortage of 18 million health workers by 2030 globally.

-URN

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