23 February 2013

Uganda: Mulago Hospital Nurses to Work 12 Hours a Day

Mulago Hospital is proposing an increase in the working hours of nurses to boost its service delivery.

The announcement was made recently during a staff meeting.

According to a source the changes are aimed at reaching out to the overwhelming number of patients admitted daily at the hospital.

The source said administrators want to introduce a 12-hour working shift, starting next month.

Those in the first shift will be working from 8:00am to 8:00pm, while those in the night shift will work till morning. The changes are likely to affect those who work during the day.

Currently, nurses work from 8:00am to 5:00pm, meaning that if the policy is implemented, they will be spending another three hours at their workplace.

Saturday Vision visited the hospital and talked to some nurses, who confirmed that the changes will be effected next month.

They, however, protested the move, saying the hospital administration should first improve their welfare.

"The Government should increase our salaries if they want us to work for more hours," one of the nurses, who preferred anonymity, said.

Some nurses have threatened to sue the hospital if it implements the policy.

"The new policy should have been rejected at an early stage, but we failed due to lack of solidarity. But we shall go to court to challenge it," a nurse said.

The hospital's executive director, Dr. Baterana Byarugaba, however, refuted claims that the hospital was planning to introduce a new policy.

"Yes, the proposal was presented in the meeting, but the stakeholders are still examining it. We do not rush to implement proposals," Byaruhanga explained.

Sources said during the staff meeting the management also addressed some of the challenges the hospital is facing, including staff shortage.

"They said more health workers will be recruited soon to address the staff shortage," a source said.

The change in working hours comes at a time when the Government is planning to introduce a scheme of service for nursing cadres, whereby it will be recruiting only degree and diploma-holders.

The aim is to streamline the functions and requirements of the nursing profession in order to provide for career development and progression in public service, according to Jonas Tumwine, the public service ministry spokesperson.

Tumwine said once the programme starts, nurses will be catered for under the public service structure.

"Originally, the Government did not consider these courses, until the universities started teaching them," he said.

Tumwine, however, declined to mention whether under the new programme nursing officers will get a higher pay. According to Dr. Asuman Lukwago, the permanent secretary in the health ministry, enrolled nurses earn sh450,000, while registered nurses get sh500,000 per month. Medical doctors earn sh1.1m

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