Medical workers at Fort Portal Referral Hospital have again gone on a sit down strike, paralyzing work at the hospital.
This is the fourth time the medical workers have gone on strike to protest government’s failure to pay their salaries for three months.
A visit to the hospital by our reporter on Monday saw patients, especially in the Out-Patients Department (OPD), in desperate need for help. Some of the patients were sleeping on the floor, waiting for treatment, but in vain. Some of the attendants have been forced to transfer the patients to other health facilities.
In the male and female wards, some of the patients were being attended to by intern doctors from Fort Portal Nursing School. The maternity ward, x-ray and pediatric ward have all been abandoned. Three expectant mothers were also denied entrance to the maternity ward by the striking staff. Their relatives were forced to transfer them to another health facility.
Patients were also stopped at the gate and denied entrance to the hospital, by the hospital security guards, who told them to return home, since there is no medical worker to attend to them. Some medical workers jeered at patients who pleaded for help.
David Mwesige, a patient from Kamwenge district, says that he was supposed to have a hernia operation on Monday morning. Mwesige says that he has no option but wait until the workers return for duty, since he has no money to go to a private health facility.
Charles Mali, the Chairperson of the Uganda Medical Workers Union Fort Portal branch, told redpepper online that last week they resolved to lay down their tools after failure to have their salaries paid by the third day of July.
According to Mali, the health workers demand salaries for April, May and June. He says that unlike in the past when they called off their strike after meetings with the hospital administration, this time they have vowed not to call it off until the money has been deposited on their bank accounts.
In a telephone interview, the acting Hospital director Oscar Kaliisa Kyebambe said they tried to convince the staff to continue with work until they are paid, but they failed to adhere.
According to Kaliisa, the hospital administration has left the matter to the Ministry of Health.
However in a statement released today by the Dr Charles Olaro, the Hospital Director, the workers have been told to report to work. Olaro says that he has personally spoken to the Minister of Health, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who has promised to address the matter before the end of day today.
However by the time of filing this report, the medical workers were still on strike.
In April and May, the medical workers laid down their tools to compel government to clear their salary arrears. The medical workers called off the strikes after Dr. Isaac Ezati, the Director for Planning at the Ministry of Health held a meeting with them and promised to ensure their salaries are cleared by June 14th but nothing was done.