To fill the void left by the striking doctors, the Uganda Police Force has deployed 16 doctors and opened its medical facilities across the country to the general public to access health services.
Newly appointed Police spokesperson, Emilian Kayima says the Inspector General of Police directed the director Uganda Police Health Services, Dr Moses Byaruhanga on Friday to join ministry of health and the army medical team to provide services to Ugandans following the medical workers' strike that enters into the third week tomorrow, Monday.
"The Inspector General of Police on Friday last week, gave a directive to the director Uganda Police Force health services to support the ministry and of course the other teams from the UPDF and UPS [Uganda Prisons Services]. This directive has been complied with and when you come to Kampala you find these services given in Kibuli, in Nsambya. You go to Rukungiri, you go to Arua, you go to Masaka, you go to Soroti, you go to Tororo, you go to Mbale - all these facilities are there.
It is therefore our appeal to members of the public out there who may not have not known this, to freely come for these services. And I must stress that these services are totally free of charge. The total number of doctors we have across the country is 16 but of course we have other health service providers", Kayima said.
The deployment of police doctors follows a request from the health minister, Jane Ruth Aceng to President Yoweri Museveni early this week to authorise the ministry to seek for doctors from armed forces to attend to patients.
Kayima however, says the police doctors will not move to Mulago, Kiruddu and Kawempe hospitals as had been requested by the health ministry but they will work with doctors or in hospitals within their localities. The army promised to deploy 10 doctors and about 20 nurses but said they were waiting for "logistics" from the side of government.
Medical doctors laid down their tools on November 6 to compel government to give them a pay rise, improve their welfare and working conditions. They are demanding improved remunerations, disbandment of the State House Health Monitoring Unit, which they claim has continued harassing them and a review of supply chain management of medicines, vaccines and medical supplies.
Government has since dismissed the strike as illegal, saying Uganda Medical Association (UMA), which called for the strike isn't a trade union and therefore cannot negotiate with on behalf of the doctors. There are about 1200 doctors including intern doctors on strike according to UMA.
Early this week, President Museveni accused the doctors of betrayal, warning that they will pay for the consequences of their defiance. While addressing a rally at Karambi sub-county grounds in Burahya county in Kabarole district, Museveni said the doctors are going to regret their decision to lay down their tools.
He warned that the doctors risk being sacked if they continue with the strike because government is going to recruit new doctors. The striking doctors have reportedly been asked by ministry of health to leave the government facilities including the hospitals and staff houses. Dr Ekwaro Obuku, the Uganda Medical Association president said, threats from the ministry and the president will not.
He said indeed if the president says they doctors will regret their decision to lay down tools, they are already regretting why they did not strike earlier.