5 December 2017

Uganda: Doctors Reject Plans to Import Cuba Medics

Photo: Michael Kakumirizi/Daily Monitor
Dr Ekwaro Obuku, left, the Uganda Medical Association president, addresses doctors and journalists at the Davis Lecture Theatre at Mulago hospital in Kampala (file photo).

Kampala — Doctors under Uganda Medical Association (UMA) have criticised the government plan to import Cuban medical experts, equating the move to "treason".

"In sum, this is an act of treason and the responsible person should face the General Court Martial, then Luzira prison,' Dr Ekwaro Obuku, the UMA president, said in a statement yesterday.

The doctors on November 25 suspended their strike until December 16, pending progress on the government's commitment to address their demands for improved salaries and other remuneration.

Yesterday, Daily Monitor published a story showing that the government is planning to import 200 doctors from Cuba.

The Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, was quoted saying the Cuban doctors would be coming to bolster the healthcare services, but not to replace local doctors.

Dr Obuku said the foreign doctors the government intends to import will not cause the desired transformation of the health sector.

Dr Obuku asked all members of UMA not to be distracted by the move to import doctors since there are a few days remaining to the December 16 deadline to review the progress on government's implementation of its commitments.

Ms Perry Aritua, the executive director of Women in Democracy Network, an NGO, reiterated the Ugandan doctors' stand.

Ms Aritua said the government is only posturing instead of addressing poor working conditions, absence of medicines and supplies in hospitals which are glaring challenges crippling the health sector.

"We have our own doctors trained in the country but in the health facilities where they are supposed to work, there are no medicines and supplies," she said.

Ms Aritua said they had anticipated that the three-week strike by doctors would awaken the government to fix the challenges raised instead of being arrogant.

"Doctors should work in a befitting environment where there are gloves and electricity as opposed to having doctors operate mothers with assistance of a torch light," she said.

The executive director of Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development, Mr Moses Mulumba, said the importation of doctors should tally with the country's legal framework.

"The government needs to study laws on importation of doctors because Cuban doctors should comply with the legal regulations of doctors [here] once disciplinary issues arise," he said.

He warned that the Cuban expatriate doctors will face the same challenges their Ugandan counterparts are complaining about.

The government Spokesperson, Mr Ofwono Opondo, yesterday said the importation of Cuban doctors should not be "a cause for alarm or scare anybody".

"Uganda does not have enough doctors to cover the health sector and you cannot compel all Ugandan doctors to work for government," Mr Opondo said.

He said the Cuban government offered to send doctors to Uganda in the early years when NRM came to power three decades ago but the offer was rejected by President Museveni, who instead asked Cuba for training support which resulted in the opening of Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

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