Uganda: Covid - Border Testing Stalls As Medics Protest Non-Payment

A sit down strike by medical workers screening Covid-19 cross border truck drivers and residents halted operations at the Rwanda-Uganda Border of Mirama hills on Thursday morning.

The medics were protesting non-payment of their allowances from October 2020 to June 2021.

With trucks coming from Rwanda not allowed to enter without medical clearance from the team, all border operations including immigration, taxation and business came to a standstill.

Over 400 trucks remained parked at the border entry zone from the no 'man's land' up to Kakitumba trading centre in the Republic of Rwanda, a distance of over 700 metres.

Mr Francis Byamukama, the head of the medical team at the border said the medics have not received any payment apart from their salaries which they were getting from their original stations.

"We are now in bad conditions because we derive basic needs from our small salary. Even the PPEs are now lacking," Mr Byamukama said.

Mr Byamukama accuses the ministry of health of abandoning health workers posted at high risk border points.

Ntungamo Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Mr George Bakunda acknowledged the issues advanced by medics.

"The situation they are working in may not be favourable but we shall ensure they are catered for. We have talked to the medical workers," he said.

"The district will have to cater for somethings as we wait for the ministry to respond. URA says they will provide some meals," Mr Bakunda added.

Medics however voiced concern that previous meetings have yielded nothing as they vowed "to continue pushing for their allowances."

This is the second time the medics are striking after they were convinced to end the April strike over similar issues.

Twelve medical workers were deployed at the Mirama hills border by the Ntungamo District Local Government following a request from the ministry of health in April 2020.

The team was promised housing, meals and residual allowances which they only received for a few months.

In 2020, they were supplemented by a team of Red Cross volunteers who have since withdrawn from the service.

Covid-19 surge

Mirama one stop border post is also the only Covid-19 sample collection and testing centre in Ntungamo district.

Mr Byamukama says at least 27 positive cases have been identified by the medics in June alone.

Most of the people tested from the border are truck drivers, community contacts and alerts plus other district teams.

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