Kampala — The government has backtracked on a plan to import 200 doctors from Cuba, with the State Minister for Health, Ms Sarah Opendi, saying the matter has never been discussed.
Ms Opendi told the House Committee on Health on Wednesday that "someone merely mooted the idea."
"On the matter of importing doctors from Cuba, that matter was mooted at the time when the doctors were on strike," she said. "... nothing has been discussed. As we speak, we do not have anything concrete regarding the importation of the Cuban doctors."
As such, Ms Opendi said, one cannot talk about the number of doctors to be imported and what it will cost the government to hire the expatriate doctors.
Ms Opendi was appearing before the committee to explainthe Mental Health Bill.
The object of the bill is to provide for care and treatment for persons with mental illness at primary healthcare centres.
Daily Monitor on December 4 reported that Cabinet discussed the recruitment of Cuban doctors 'and gave it the green light'.
To that end, the Cabinet constituted an ad hoc committee, chaired by the Health Minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, to work out the finer details.
The committee was to clarify the terms of engagement of the Cubans, the expertise required, remuneration and relations with Ugandan peers in order to inform Cabinet's final decision.
It was on the heels on that arrangement, Dr Ekwaro Obuku; the president of the Uganda Medical Association, on Tuesday said it was imprudent to bring foreign doctors to work in Uganda.
"There is nothing new the Cubans will bring," Dr Obuku told the Health Committee.
"Anyway, if they come and they do not find the supplies, will they work? This is common sense. The cost of training a doctor is Shs70 million. You cannot spend Shs70 million to train one doctor and then say you are going to bring in Cubans."
He said instead of bringing in Cubans, the government should figure out how to attach medical doctors from nearby countries like Kenya where many Ugandan doctors are going because its health facilities pay comparatively higher salaries.
Meanwhile, doctors on the government payroll will have to wait until July 2018 to get higher salaries.
"The salary increment for health workers and other public will be effective July next year," Ms Opendi said. "It is not small money. You cannot just bring a supplementary [budget] of Shs1 trillion [to Parliament for approval]. Where will you get the [Shs1 trillion] from?"