A section of legislators have criticised a statement made by Dr. Diana Atwine proposing that the junior doctors should bear the costs of their internship.
Led by the Shadow Minister for Health, Dr. Timothy Batuwa, the MPs said move is unconstitutional and discriminatory.
In a meeting held on May 6, Dr. Atwine informed the medical pre-interns that some parents and pre-interns had approached the ministry requesting to be allowed to start internship at their own cost, to avoid further loss of time.
She noted that the delayed deployment of medical interns has distorted the internship cycles given that other students are about to graduate from various medical schools and these will also compete for the same training facilities.
It is against this background that the ministry requested those pre-medical interns who in the meantime can afford, to apply for deployment in the internship training centres of their choice.
Dr. Atwine said that the interns will be reimbursed if the Ministry of Finance avails funds.
However, some of the pre-medical interns who attended the meeting became rowdy and started hurling insults at the ministry officials who were trying to discuss the options for their deployment.
While speaking to the media on Thursday, Dr. Batuwa said that the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, the Nurses and Midwives Council, and the Pharmacy and Drugs Act all stipulate that an internship is mandatory and crucial for obtaining a practicing license.
“I would like to state that the Ministry of Health has no powers to alter terms and conditions of the deployment of pre-interns contrary to the laws of Uganda. It’s mandatory for the government to deploy the pre-medical interns with pay,” he said.
He said the ministry’s decision to deploy some pre-medical interns at their own expense is ultra vires as the Ministry can only change the terms of pre-medical Interns’ deployment by amending the laws.
He said Dr. Diana does not have the powers to unilaterally change the terms and manner of deployment of pre- medical interns.
“I call upon the government without delay, to find resources for immediate deployment of all pre-medical interns who have spent a full year idling and losing precious time since they cannot practice their professions without this mandatory requirement,” he said.
As per the Employment Act and Public Service Standing Orders, Batuwa said these pre-medical interns are not students as the government portrays them.
“The actions and behaviour of the Ministry of Health expose the tax payers of Uganda to avoidable litigation that may see us spending a lot of money to compensate for these pre-medical interns,” he noted.
Muwada Nkunyingi, MP Kyadondo East demanded that the interns should be deployed with immediate effect, threatening to take further actions.
“(Failure) we are also joining the (protest) politically, physically and with all our means to ensure that the interns are deployed,” he said.
Medical interns have in the past weeks been protesting over the status of their pending deployment in the hospitals.
The delay in deployment, according to the interns, has not only caused them distress and frustration but also affected their career goals and academic progress.
The current cohort was expected to be deployed in hospitals by April 3, according to the pre-medical interns. However, the ministry had financial constraints hence the delay.