Medical interns from the five public universities in Uganda have overwhelmingly protested a decision by the Ministry of Health to set pre-entry exams that will see all medical graduates take if they are to be enrolled as interns.
Dr. Everett Lwamulungi, a representative of the Medical Interns, made this disclosure when the interns met with the Health Committee on Wednesday, September 7, 2016 at Parliament. He was speaking in relation to a decision by the Ministry to scrap allowances for privately sponsored medical interns, a decision that saw the interns go on demonstrations early last week.
He said that Government needs to find solutions to problems the interns are grappling with, which include, among others, lack of accommodation and meals.
“The Ministry of Health should find appropriate measures to deal with the problems we are facing. Currently, our allowances are gradually decreasing. First from Shs 850,000 then Shs 690,000 and now Shs 600,000. And secondly, how can an exam be introduced without our knowledge? What about our colleague’s upcountry,” he said.
Lwamulungi condemned the inconsistency in allowances given as well as the current plans by the Ministry to bond interns for two years.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Ruth Aceng, said that Government will take responsibility of the interns, stating that medical interns would now be under the Ministry and not Mulago Hospital, as was the case before.
“We are going to take charge of the medical internship programme. A draft internship guideline is in place and we are in the process of setting up a committee to oversee the general welfare of interns,” Dr. Aceng added.
Dr. Aceng had earlier on presented a statement to the Committee, which highlighted the plight of medical interns all over the country. In her report, she noted that the number of medical interns had been gradually increasing leading to failure by Government to pay them. She also said that the exam being introduced was meant to improve quality among the doctors.
“All those who want to do internship will be required to sit and pass this exam, then they can be deployed to various health centers countrywide,” Dr. Aceng added.
However, Dr. Ekwaro Obuku, the Secretary General Uganda Medical Association said before any directives are made, key stakeholders had to be consulted.
“If the Ministry wants to introduce an exam, then they must consult the students first. After all, they are future doctors. So, it is only right that as internship guidelines are being made, all stakeholders should be duly considered,” Ekwaro added.
Interns who undergo medical training in Uganda include: medical doctors, dental surgeons, pharmacists and nurses. Hospitals countrywide are currently facing a shortage of staff following the strike of interns that started earlier last week.