MUST Medical Students March in Protest of Internship Policy

A Police pickup escorting MUST students as they marched in protest to the RDC's office.

Over 80 medical interns from Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) have Monday held a peaceful demonstration calling on authorities to reverse the rotation policy which they claim will produce doctors with insufficient skills.

The students who were  chanting songs and blowing whistles marched peacefully to the office of the Resident District Commissioner (RDC). There, they demanded an explanation on how government went ahead to  implement the policy despite a court ruling against it.

Allans Mbaine, a 5th year medical student, the Federation of Uganda Medical Interns (FUMI) ran to court in January 2019 challenging the policy of rotation which guides how the interns attain their skills.

Some of the other new proposals by the Ministry of Health (Minister of Health) included; barring medical interns previously on private sponsorship scheme but pursuing Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelors of Surgery.

Court ruled in favor of medical students and put an injunction blocking the raised amendments.

“To make matters worse, there is a court injunction that was issued out in January 2019 stopping the Ministry of Health to implement this policy but the Ministry has insisted. So we are asking what the intention is and in any case why didn’t they consult us? This is contempt of court by the Ministry of Health,” said Mbaine.

However, Mbaine said that the 2018-2019 interns who recently completed their internship were subjected to a five-one internship policy before acquiring their practicing license.

“The current interns who are finishing today have been signed off in two disciplines and where they did one month, they haven’t been signed, which implies that you did not have any practice in that filed” he said.

Mbaine says the 5:1 policy differs from the previous 3:3:3 policy which was open for them to operate from all the four major disciplines of internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery and obstetrics.

“Previously, we have been doing a rotation of three months in each to make a total of 12 months in internship but now, the Ministry of Health seems to postulate that we do 5:1. That means spending 10 months in two disciplines and other two months spent on other two disciplines,” he explained.

Mbaine says that the new policy does not favor them to become general doctors in the field of health.

“Here, you are going to be good in the department where you spent five months and be deficient in the other one where you did one month”.

“And to make matters worse, they are still dictating where you are supposed to go yet some of these rotations come with passion. You may be good at surgery but you don’t like internal medicine but you are supposed to be a general practitioner a chance to practice everything,” Mbaine explained.

He says the new policy does affect medical doctors who will venture into private hospitals after studies.

“Let’s say you are in the private how will the client trust you with his child when you never practiced pediatrics? Ideally, they make you pseudo specialist yet you are supposed to specialize at Masters where you chose a discipline you are versed with,” said Mbaine.

He encouraged the Ministry of Health to reverse the decision before students begin their internship tomorrow, Tuesday.

The group delivered a document containing their concerns to the RDC and District Health Officer.

The Deputy RDC Emmy Kateera Turyabagyenyi fears the new policy might produce half-baked doctors in the field of medicine.

“Maintaining the 5:1 policy puts patients at risk because the doctors will not have mastered their area of specialization to better their profession,” said Turyabagyenyi.

He said issues to do with policy will require a regional consultative meeting.

Kateera also promised to consult the Ministry of Health to find out why they did not adhere to the 3:3:1 rotation which the intern doctors seem to be comfortable with.

“I am going to contact the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health about non-adherence to the court orders which was talked about because this country is a state that respects the rule of law. Therefore it should not be the Ministry again working against the court order,” Turyabagyenyi said.

Monday’s peaceful demonstration Mbarara was part of nationwide protests attracting all public medical institutions like Gulu University, Kampala, Mbarara, Busitema and Makerere University.

In Kampala, at least four medical interns were arrested by Police as they walk to the Parliament to deliver a petition to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecce Kadaga.

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