Uganda: Rising numbers of medical interns cited for funding gap

Uganda: Rising numbers of medical interns cited for funding gap

Uganda: Rising numbers of medical interns cited for funding gap

Uganda: Rising numbers of medical interns cited for funding gap

The unpredictable increase in the number of medical interns and senior house officers has led to budget shortfalls in their remuneration, according to a report from the Committee on Health.

The Committee Chairperson, Hon. Charles Ayume said Uganda has 19 accredited universities producing graduates who are required to do internship, with the number at 1,901 in 2023, compared to 965 in 2016.

Ayume made the revelation while presenting the committee report on a petition about delayed commencement of medical internship and welfare for the 2023 intake.

Ayume said there has been no commencement date set for the 2023 intake and medical interns could not be deployed to the 58 internship centres due to lack of funds for their allowances.

The committee observed that the budget for the intake was reduced from Shs51.1 billion to Shs10.23 billion, yet Shs54.6 billion is needed to pay allowances for the 1,901 medical interns.
“The committee observes that the allocated funds can run the internship programme for only one month. Failure to provide the funds will worsen the already dire situation in the health sector,” Ayume said.

The committee also recommended that Shs70.3 billion be provided by Ministry of Finance in the Financial Year 2023/2024 to cater for the shortfall in the budget for medical interns and senior house officers who started their training in 2022.
Ayume urged the ministries of Education and Health to expedite the presentation of a policy on internship which will guide the training of the 2023 intake.

Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi (NUP, Nakawa Division West) reiterated the need to avail funds to facilitate medical interns saying they do the bulk of work in many hospitals across the country.
“The few doctors in our hospitals are overburdened and you find people stuck in corridors with patients because the interns are not in place. We need to cease seeing this as some luxurious expenditure and facilitate these interns,” Ssenyonyi said.

Hon. Sarah Opendi (NRM, Tororo District Woman Representative) restated the need for the internship policy to guide government in reviewing and deploying medical interns according to the available resource envelope.
“If it is not possible to pay the interns Shs2.5 million as per the presidential directive, then let the ministry review and pay the interns what they can afford,” Opendi added.

Hon. Edson Rugumayo (NRM, Youth Representative Western) said there is need to set up a database through which the Ministry of Health can adequately communicate with interns on the progress of their deployments.

The State Minister for Primary Health Care, Hon. Margaret Muhanga said Uganda’s healthcare system is understaffed yet specialists are needed to supervise the medical interns deployed in hospitals.
“There has been a school of thought that we could give a ceiling to each university on the number of doctors they can educate each year, but it does not exist. Without having this ceiling, the numbers might triple in the next three or four years,” said Muhanga.

The House also adopted a motion by Hon. Aisha Kabanda (NUP, Butambala District Woman Representative) to delete a recommendation in the Committee report to provide for structured pre-internship examination for prospective interns.

The committee had also recommended pre-registration examinations for those who have completed internship, as a mechanism of quality assurance.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda.