By Our Reporter
Parliament: A nine-member committee has been set up to draft an internship policy aimed at mitigating medical interns’ strikes witnessed over the past few years.
This was revealed by the State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo while appearing before the Committee on Health on Thursday.
Muyingo said lack of clear regulations right from admission, internship and licensing of medical students has caused challenges that largely explain the plight of medical interns and the cause for strikes.
“We are cognizant that these challenges are being experienced in the entire cycle of training for health professionals. They affected the whole spectrum of training right from admission to the stage of presenting students to professional bodies for licensing,” Muyingo said.
He said that similar strikes happened at Makerere and Kyambogo Universities but have since ceased, arguing that the medical interns’ strikes will also come to an end.
“There was a time Makerere would have numerous strikes, Kyambogo would strike every semester but we handled them and strikes stopped. We are sure one good policy that comes after wide consultations is one of the solutions to end the strikes,” said Muyingo.
He noted that the policy will cover all health professionals urging Parliament to support the ministry in mobilising funds to implement the policy once it is approved.
The Executive Director of the National Council for Higher Education, Prof. Mary Okwakol said there are lacunas in the training of health workers that the policy will address.
She for instance said there were no restrictions on how many students a training institution can admit, which was affecting budgeting.
“Up to 2018, National Council for Higher Education was not capping how many students each institution is supposed to admit but recently we started doing it. We for instance sent experts to assess Kampala International University which found out that the university has capacity to enroll 600 students annually, “said Okwakol.
She added that the patient to doctor ratio is still much lower than the recommended standards and asked MPs to support health training institutions which she said were financially struggling.
“Uganda’s patient to medical doctor ratio as of 2020 is 1:60,000 compared to the World Health Organization recommended ratio of 1:1000. As a country, we lack medical doctors and I think the training institutions for health workers should be supported,” Okwakol said.
The committee applauded the move to draft an internship policy and recommended that it should be informed by as many views as possible.
“As a committee, we want to promote sciences as per the President’s recommendations. We want you to maintain allowances of interns, and as a committee, we can be involved in the drafting process,” said the Committee Vice-Chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssebikali.
Padyere County MP, Hon. Isaac Otimgiw said there is need for government to urgently pay the medical interns and community health officers (CHOs) as it drafts the policy.
He stated the Ministry of Health is in need of Shs80 billion to pay all interns and CHOs but has been allocated only Shs8 billion in the 2023/2024 financial year.
A section of legislators proposed that government should come up with incentives to motivate interns, citing referral hospitals that give an additional pay to motivate interns.
“I remember a hospital like Lacor in Gulu district used to attract interns, we used to look forward to working there, because they used to pay interns some token,” said Hon. George Bhoka Didi (NRM, Obongi County).