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'There’s no money'- MOH Tells Nurses as They Declare Industrial Action

The nurses and midwives started a strike over lunch allowances estimated at 70 billion Shillings. This money is anticipated to cater for 26,000 nurses and midwives at a rate of 15,000 per health worker, per day. Currently, they receive 2,000 Shillings for lunch which cannot even cater for a descent cup of tea.
Usher Wilson Owere of the National Organisation of Trade Unions rallies Midwives to stay at home as they declared the Nurses strike on Wednesday. Looking on are leaders of the Union

Audio 3

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that the strike declared today by health workers under their umbrella Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union is unnecessary and will not yield any results.

The nurses and midwives started a strike over lunch allowances estimated at 70 billion Shillings. This money is anticipated to cater for 26,000 nurses and midwives at a rate of 15,000 per health worker, per day. Currently, they receive 2,000 Shillings for lunch which cannot even cater for a descent cup of tea.

Justus Cherop Kiplangat, the President of the Union says that their strike was supposed to come earlier in December if only they hadn’t listened to empty promises from the government. He says the Prime Minister had asked that the Finance Ministry allocates them money this financial year, only to realize that it remained an unfunded priority in the 2021-2022 Budget estimates.

//Cue in; “ Yes we can sit…

Cue out… the lunch allowances.”//   

Kiplangat says that the only nurses who can continue reporting to duty are those working in the emergency and causality unit in addition to those working in the labor suite.

But State Minister for Health Robina Nabbanja said that while the welfare of health workers important, the government does not have enough money to meet their demands.  She said that other than calling upon members to lay down tools, union leaders should have considered mutual understanding with government such that they avail them what they can afford for now  

//Cue in; “I am also going…

Cue out…can’t go far.”// 

However, the leaders who wanted to meet the Speaker of Parliament over the same but failed, said that they can no longer hold any talks because all previous meetings since 2018 had not yielded any results.

At Kawempe National Referral hospital, the country’s biggest facility that sees more than 150 mothers every day and conducts more than 70 births every day, the strike is starting to bite.  When URN visited on Wednesday afternoon, many mothers reported to have not seen a health worker on the ward since morning.  Some were seen sitting on verandas and corridors unattended to.

Christine Nabbanja, the hospital Principal Nursing Officer told URN that she had not yet keenly taken note of how many of her staff had not reported to duty as many were also taking part in celebrations to mark World Midwifery Day which coincided with the start of the strike.

However, the Executive Director Dr Nehemiah Katusiime worries for the worst.  He didn’t have a direct answer when asked about how he will handle the already overflowing number of mothers in absence of nurses and midwives, but rather said that the government should quickly come up with a solution to avoid a likely crisis.  

//Cue in; ”If the central government...

Cue out...people be patient."//

Already, the hospital is grossly understaffed whereby of the 476 nurses and midwives they require, they operate with less than 200. For these too, it’s not clear whether they will be available for the coming days with union leaders announcing that they will not cease fire.