Kampala — The Ministry of Heath yesterday said the government needs at least 779 health specialists in all regional referral hospitals across the country for quality health service delivery.
Dr Stephen Opio Okiror, the ministry's commissioner of Human Resource Management, told Members of Parliament on the Health Committee that there has been a lot of movement of doctors mainly because of low pay.
"There have been a lot of movement noted. A number of doctors are recruited and they don't take [up] the jobs for a number of reasons including salaries. Retention is very key. To train a specialist is a very expensive venture. The ministry has developed a training plan which is at different levels of approval," Dr Okiror said.
The Health minister, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, noted that while there was some salary increment in 2017/18, there were others who had been categorised as administrators and missed on the enhancement.
They included district health officers, deputy district health officers, directors of regional hospitals, directors at the ministry, commissioners and assistant commissioners.
"There were categories of people who were erroneously categorised as administrators and never got the enhancement. District health officers were abandoning the districts. We discussed this and we agreed that these are also scientists and their salaries should be enhanced. It was affecting service delivery," Dr Aceng said.
She added: "We had a big challenge when universities enhanced salaries of lecturers. There was a massive exodus of doctors leaving health facilities to work in universities. Lecturers' salaries had increased up to Shs7 million while we were getting Shs4.2 million in hospitals. Specialists thought they would get better deal in universities and they left."
She explained that in 2017/19, the ministry saw 335 specialists leaving government health facilities to work in private hospitals, NGOs and other moved abroad.
Of these, 38 joined different intitutions such as Busitema University, Kampala International University, Gulu University, Lira University and Mbarara University of Science and Technology. At least 102 went to work with NGOs, a total of 113 joined the East African Community, 22 are in research organisations while 60 left for Europe and United States.
In 2018/19 alone, 243 specialists have left to work abroad.
"In the last four years, 656 specialists sought better work abroad. We presented this to Cabinet and have agreed that collective measures must be taken. We are hoping with this increment, it will be able to attract back those who are in NGOs and in the East African Community," Dr Aceng said.
There are 313 specialists already working with government health facilities and another 265 working outside government.
The committee chairperson, Dr Michael Bukenya, was concerned that the additional wage for enhancement of Shs13 billion was not going to take care of hospitals such as Moroto that are understaffed.