Government has ordered the striking medical doctors to report back to work or else they face stern action. The Minister of Health Dr. Ruth Aceng has said that the industrial action declared by the medics earlier this week is illegal since it didn’t follow the required procedure.
She told a press conference on Thursday night that doctors did not put government on notice 90 days prior to their decision to strike which contravened with the Public Service procedure in declaring industrial action.
“All health workers and interns are here by ordered to resume duty with immediate effect because their strike is illegal,” the Minister said at the press conference held at the Ministry of Health headquarters.
Doctors laid down their tools indefinitely on Monday demanding for a salary rise and good working conditions including equipment and drug stocks. They also want government to give them vehicles.
But Minister Aceng says these demands should have been presented to the Public Service Negotiation and Consultation Council.
While the Minister acknowledged that the doctors have genuine concerns, she challenged their approach to the strike.
“The doctors should have followed all avenues for negotiations, all the methods used by the health workers aren’t good.”
As such, government has directed all Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) to follow up the conditions in health facilities to find out whether the doctors have resumed their normal duties or not.
Aceng called out the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) the body that brings together medics in Uganda for forcing non-willing doctors into the strike. According to the Minister, doctors are public service employees and UMA is not a registered union.
“Dr. Obuku’s action to mobilise doctors to strike is tantamount to contempt of court,” Aceng said. Dr. Ekwaro Obuku heads the Uganda Medical Association.
She said that intern doctors who won’t resume work risk having their internships terminated. For long, interns have decried the poor facilitation and non payment of their allowances despite working in difficult conditions.
It remains to be seen how the doctors will respond to government’s order.
Dr. Aceng addressed the press conference together with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwiine and the Chairman General of the National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU).