Calls by medical interns for a fixed salary arrangement appear to have hit a snag after health minister Jane Ruth Aceng affirmed they are not civil servants to enjoy such a privileges.
The minister’s response follows threats last month by the Federation of Medical Interns to strike over poor pay and lack of accommodation among other biting issues.
“Medical interns are not civil servants because they have not been recruited through the formal recruitment system and therefore cannot earn a salary. Interns are still undergoing apprenticeship training, after which, those who qualify can register as health workers and obtain a practicing licensing” Aceng said in a statement.
Though these train in government health facilities, Aceng says civil servant’s salary scales are not bargained for verbally but are clearly indicated in their appointment letters. Furthermore, she indicated that interns are not appointed by the Public Service Commission, Health Service Commission or the District Service Commissions.
On the issue of delayed payments to interns, Aceng emphasized that her ministry can only hand out what is available in their coffers to support their apprenticeship. So far, she said the minister is cash stripped.
About Shs 11.4 billion shillings this year was allocated towards 1,117 trainees compared to 9.3 billion shillings for 970 interns the previous year.
She added that the ministry had approached Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to spare this facilitation from tax in vain.
“An intern is paid a gross allowance of UGX 940,000 of which UGX 600,000 is for allowances, UGX 250,000 is for meals and UGX 90,000 is for accommodation. Unfortunately, this money is also taxed for Pay as You Earn (PAYE) of UGX184,000 leaving a net allowance of UGX 756,000”,
On housing, she pointed out that it is becoming untenable to provide accommodation considering huge numbers of health students being churned out by institutions countrywide. This she said is unlike the 90’s where medical internship was only for medical doctors and surgeons, usually less than 300.
“Many new medical schools have sprung up releasing over 1,000 graduates per year that require internship training. The Hospitals that provide internship training are limited in terms of infrastructure and capacity and currently overwhelmed with the numbers that are being deployed to them”.