35 CSOs including the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Association asked Parliament to institute a probe into circumstances under which government plans to export 263 highly qualified health workers to Trinidad and Tobago.
In the petition presented to Speaker of Parliament at her chambers on Wednesday, April 8 2015, the petitioners warned of huge loss of lives of patients once the few available health workers are exported.
“Uganda is suffering from an acute shortage of health workers which has contributed to the high rate of maternal mortality. The deployment of health workers abroad will irreparably damage the public health sector and lead to loss of thousands of vulnerable patients,” Justinian Muhwezi Kateera of the Institute of Public Policy Research told the Speaker of Parliament.
Government though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently came out and defended the export of medics, saying it was part of its responsibilities to seek jobs for its citizens, in foreign countries.
The petitioners want government to halt the export of health workers but also recruit 2400 additional health workers in the next financial year. They also proposed a package of nonfinancial incentives that government can provide to improve retention of health workers.
Sr.Janet Obuni the Chairperson of the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Association in her submission reaffirmed the need for Uganda Government to remunerate and improve the conditions of the health workers especially the midwives who provide the backbone to maternal health.
“The export of midwives has an effect of withdrawing maternal health services from over 900,000 mothers. Government should train and improve the conditions of health workers, and lift the embargo on recruitment,” she added.
Speaker Kadaga expressed reservations on the export of health workers and urged government to present its position on the floor of Parliament.
“As a country we have failed to achieve Millennium Development goals Four and Five (Reduce Child Mortality and Improve maternal health).How can we then help another country when the Health Service Commission is complaining over shortage of midwives? Government must explain what is happening,” Rt.Hon Kadaga noted.
The Speaker proposed that government could think of exporting some of the retired doctors and nurses who have left active service.
Mityana district MP Namabidde Ssinnabulya reaffirmed the need to retain the highly skilled medical personnel because they are critical to the country’s health sector.