Uganda Nurses and Midwifery Union (UNMU) officials have protested the impending eviction of some nurses from Masaka Regional Referral Hospital staff houses.
This comes after the hospital administrators early this month ordered all nurses living in staff quarters to re-apply for the houses or their rooms would be allocated to other members.
Mr Justus Nsabimana, the head of nurses and midwives' union at Masaka hospital, said at least 20 nurses have been ordered to leave the houses over failure to re-apply for them.
"Surprisingly, we did not get any communication from the hospital management explaining the need for us to re-apply for the houses. We consider this as mistreatment by the hospital authorities and that is why we sought the intervention of the union leadership," Mr Nsabimana said on Monday.
He said management should have instead reduced the monthly accommodation fees.
The health workers claim they pay at least Shs200,000 as rental fees which also cover maintenance and utility bills, among other charges, but they say it is too high.
"Why should we pay that money yet it is the responsibility of the employer to offer housing facilities to the employees?" Mr Nsabimana asked.
Mr Jackson Turyahebwa, the acting general secretary UNMU, said reapplying for the houses is unfair.
"It is not clear why health workers are being asked to reapply for the houses yet they are still serving staff. We have asked the hospital management to swiftly address this issue or else we will be forced to mobilise the nurses to lay down their tools in protest," he said.
However, Dr Nathan Onyachi, the hospital director, said the nurses who were asked to re-apply no longer stay within the hospital.
He said many staff houses are occupied by relatives of nurses and other retired staff while others have been abandoned.
"This is what prompted us to ask all staff to re-apply for the houses so that we establish which are occupied and those that are vacant. We have no intention to evict our own staff. This issue has been blown out of proportion by self-seekers," Dr Onyachi said.
On the exorbitant rental fees, he said the rates were provided for under the Public Service Standing Orders.
"If they want to sleep in staff quarters without paying any penny, I do not think that is possible in the current circumstances," he added.
The hospital has more than 286 health workers, but management can only provide housing facilities to 42 per cent of the staff. Currently, the hospital can only provide accommodation to 98 staff in the existing 54 housing units and other old houses at the hospital.
To address shortage of accommodation, the management in 2017 started constructing another complex to house at least 40 senior staff members. However, the works recently stalled after management decided to use the available funds to complete a new maternity ward at the facility.