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EXCLUSIVE: Bleak Future for Shs 4.5bn Mulago Surgeons Scholarship Program

A programme which was meant to provide specialised skills to Ugandan doctors in developed countries is in jeopardy after the medical officials were struck from the payroll and government failed to procure equipment for sensitive media operations, Chimp Corps report.

It all started with Dr Gideon Rukundo Rugari, a senior surgeon at Mulago Hospital, writing to President Museveni seeking support for surgeons for their super specialty surgical training.

Rugari said this would create an initial skeleton for training other surgeons in future hence addressing the foreign referrals crisis.

Museveni responded by ordering release of a huge sum of money to facilitate the doctors’ training in India.

The President authorised the comptroller to budget for 17 surgeons whose list was submitted to his office.

But Rugari cut the budget for each doctor by one half and increased the number to 43 surgeons, anesthesiologists and physicians.

This compelled the Comptroller, Lucy Nakyobe to increase the budget to Shs 4.3bn from Shs 2.5bn.

However, the programme appears to be hitting a dead end due to infighting and poor preparation to equip the doctors.

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An official told this investigative website on Monday that most of the doctors on the programme have been removed from the payroll even when they applied and were granted study leave.

“The relevant bodies are not planning for the doctors’ return after the training. Mulago Hospital is still a General Hospital even after renovation. We need money to procure machines that do what they have been training on,” said an official briefed about this development.

“But I want to assure you, they are killing the program at a time we are at the verge of doing most of the procedures that take people to India. We are supposed to be buying equipment and setting up now. We have three highly motivated surgeons who are completing liver transplant and surgery in November. They have no instruments to use when they come back in September.”

Uganda spends more than Shs 500bn on foreign medical facilities for diseases that can be treated locally.

Contacted, Rugari said the doctors who were sent to India, South Africa, Europe and Canada are about to complete their courses but they were yet to get equipment they have been training on for specialised operations such as liver transplant.

It’s stated a number of doctors were arbitrarily denied money and are still waiting since September 2017, leaving their families starving.

Doctors told us that two surgeons were denied money by Dr Victoria Nekesa, the Special Advisor to the President on Medical issues, who has since taken charge of the implementation of the program.

Rugari kicked out

It’s understood the President’s Principal Private Secretary Molly Kamukama recently wrote to Rugari, informing him that he would no longer run the program.

In her letter to Rugari, Kamukama implied that Nekesa would run the program as she is “more free.”

“We thank you for the contribution you made towards coordinating the recruitment of doctors for super-specialised training in India. With your involvement and participation in the training in which you personally participated; we have been able to make great strides in the improvement of surgery in Uganda,” said Kamukama

“Going forward on the matter, Dr Victoria Nekesa who is more free and staff, will from now on, be responsible for the coordination of the above activity among doctors and with Mulago Administration,” said Kamukama, adding, “State House administration will handle the support required for the training in India with her and the doctors still on training.”

Kamukama did not say she was directed by the President who commissioned Rugari to run the program.

Dr Nekesa has been accused of favouritism as only doctors approved by her can travel for external training.

“She chooses who to favour and who to deny. Some doctors haven’t even started training because of her,” the medical official told us.

Efforts to reach Nekesa were still futile by the time we posted this article.

But she explained in her emails that sometimes doctors would make abrupt changes of institutions of attachment.

Yet, she explained, this would not be possible after securing funds for specific scholarships.

For example in one of the emails, Nekesa assured Dr Arlene Muzira who intended to shift from India to take up a scholarship in Canada:

“Dear Dr Muzira; that is not how institutions run. That you ask an institution to plan for your training in India for over 6 months when you could have brought up your issue earlier in the meeting, like Dr Emily did. From nowhere, you are asking diversion of institutional funds to the Canada thing not known to anyone in the earlier plans,” said Nekesa.

“The directive was clear and very clear that the doctors were going to train in India and that is a legal status. Now if the money had come out for the Dr Arlene going to Medanta on the 31 December, 2017, what could you have done? Carried it off to Canada? Not as easy as that Dr, it would have been legally wrong. So, it is on that basis that the state house controller gave us that response and I can’t change that as little Dr Nekesa.”

She further explained that, “Of course I would have diverted it straight away if I was decision maker in this case but am not. I would want the doctor to complete her training wherever she wants but that is not how it goes in this case. My bosses would have required a whole new Canada training directive from the president again different from the Indian one.”

But ChimpReports understands it’s Rugari, in coordination with Nakyobe who would decided where to send doctors.

Nevertheless, the unfolding developments indicate the scholarship programme remains in turmoil much as Comptroller Nakyobe has been helpful throughout.

Reports indicate that the chaos in the program compelled several doctors to resign from the programme.

The medical futures committee members include Olivia Kituuka as Chairperson and Dr Gideon Rukundo Rugari as Secretary.

Others are Dr Vianney Kweyamba, Dr Nick Okwi, Dr Emmanuel Elobu, Dr Rodney Mugarura, Dr Arthur Kwizera, Dr Blessing Taremwa, Dr Clara Odhiambo and Prof Moses Galukande who is the Senior Advisor.

Observers say if not contained this situation could frustrate efforts to transform the health sector struggling to bridge the skills gap and address expensive foreign medical trips.

Contacted, Rugari said he was “going nowhere until the job I began with the President is done.”

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