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Ugandan doctors held govt at ransom, Dr Atwine tells MPs

Dr Diana Atwine (in purple), the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health appearing before the Committee of Parliament (COURTESY PHOTO)

Members of Parliament on Wednesday May 2, grilled the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwine on government’s decision to hire Cuban doctors.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee lead counsel Gerald Karuhanga put it to Dr Atwine that it was unfortunate that instead of motivating Ugandan doctors, government was mulling replacing them.

Dr Atwine appeared before the committee, accompanied by officers from the ministry and said she was not in position to speak on speculations because the Cuban doctors are not yet in the country.

She added that the decision to bring them was not hers alone and involved a number of players.

In her defence, she said Ugandan doctors had held government at ransom leaving no option but to hire the Cuban doctors.

The Ministry of Health is in advanced stages of bringing the doctors, with the first batch of 40 specialists expected in the country anytime soon.

But the move has attracted criticism, with several groups saying the country’s problem is not shortage of doctors but poor pay.

President Museveni inspects a Guard of Honour during Labour Day celebration in Sembabule on Tuesday, where he said government is inclined to hire Cuban doctors to avoid crises in hospitals: PPU PHOTO

The proposal to bring in Cuban doctors came up at the height of the doctors’ industrial action last year.

However, during debate in Cabinet, some ministers opposed it, arguing that it would not be tenable in the long run.

President Yoweri Museveni has since come out to say his government wants to bring in 200 medical doctors from Cuba to replace local ones who create crises in public hospitals whenever they go on strike.

Speaking at the Labour Day celebrations in Sembabule District on Tuesday, the President said he was prompted to bring the doctors because the local ones acted unprofessionally by going on strike last year.

“I wanted to bring Cuban doctors because our own doctors behaved very badly and unprofessionally. They tried to incite their fellow doctors to leave patients to die but they failed. When we were under that blackmail, I said I can’t take it, I’d rather bring in Cuban doctors to replace these doctors,” he said.

And on Tuesday, the President confirmed that he was advised against importing the Cuban doctors during the strike by doctors under their umbrella body, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA).

PAC member Theodore Ssekikubo tasked Dr Atwine to explain why as the accounting officer she could not advise the President that instead of hiring Cubans, government instead pay Ugandan doctors more so that they work better.

The committee chairperson Angelina Osege told the team from theministry that it appears they don’t care about issues affecting Ugandan doctors.

Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality) asked the PS to substantiate claims if doctors holding government at random, arguing that that since Ugandan doctors complained about lack of medical consumables, how will the Cubans work without equipment?

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