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Fear in Hospitals As Duration of Medical Interns Nears End

Asked about what happens after September, Dr. Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health told URN last week that whether they will have medical interns or not after September it’s for the Ministry of Education to decide since they are in charge of training.

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As the training duration for 1155 medical interns currently deployed in 35 hospitals across the country is fast approaching there are fears of a likely vacuum since finalists who are supposed to replace them are still trapped by the lock down.

Dr. Herbert Luswata, the Chairperson of the Federation of Uganda Medical Interns, says while they have contacted the Ministry of health and hospital directors about their fate, they haven’t received any feedback.

Another intern who spoke to URN on condition of anonymity for fear of being reprimanded says they were issued new time tables last week indicating an extended internship duration going beyond the one year that they are supposed to train for. 

He said the new time tables show they will remain in the wards until the end of October yet they were supposed to be out by September. As their fate officially remains unknown, reports from the 35 hospitals national and regional referral hospitals were interns are deployed show that they conduct over 60% of the work with their supervisors coming in once in a while to offer guidance.

For instance Mulago National Referral Hospital alone has 166 interns. 27 are working in the pediatrics department and 20 in surgery.  The sister Kiruddu hospital has 49 graduate interns whereas Kawempe has 45 interns deployed in the emergency department, post natal care and the labor suite, often working 24 hours.

The other doctors are deployed in equally busy up country hospitals such as Jinja, Lira, Mbale and Fort Portal Regional Referral hospitals.  At Entebbe Grade B hospital that is currently handling the biggest bulk of COVID-19 patients, a total of 49 interns are deployed including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

 

Asked about what happens after September, Dr.  Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health told URN last week that whether they will have medical interns or not after September it’s for the Ministry of Education to decide since they are in charge of training.

She said Ministry of Health is waiting to hear from their education counterparts. On his part, Dr. Richard Idro, the President of Uganda Medical Association told URN that they raised this issue with the Ministry of Health last Tuesday during a strategy meeting warning them that unless the finalists are released, there will be no interns in hospitals in three months’ time.

Early this month, President Museveni allowed finalists at all levels of education to return to school only to halt it a day later, saying cabinet had decided that they first hold on as numbers of COVID-19 infections were going up. Now, Luswata says if Ministry of Health is to extend their time in hospital, they will have to be retained as employees or issued with short term contracts until the vacuum is filled.

 

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Luswata says Atwiine’s claim of waiting to hear from the Education Ministry is invalid since graduate interns are deployed and paid by Ministry of Health.

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He says they have already written a proposal to the Ministry with conditions for likely extension.

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