On 16th November 2017, Medical Doctors in public hospitals went on strike demanding for favorable working conditions and better remuneration. As usual the regime attempted to blackmail them with threats but to no avail. Museveni met them at State House under their umbrella association, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA).
According to the UMA Chairman, Dr. Obuku, during that meeting Museveni threatened them with arrest thus; “……the President threatened to call a state of emergency and arrest the Doctors to get them back to work”. The striking Doctors did not give in to blackmail and during a public rally at Karambi in Kabarole district, Museveni disclosed that he had been betrayed by the striking Doctors. He said; “…. this is intolerable; shall fire Doctors who don’t want to work and they will regret their actions”.
Instead, Museveni ordered for the deployment of ‘Ghost Doctors’ (non-existent) medical Doctors from the army to public hospitals. The army offered to deploy ten serving Doctors and the 14 recruit Doctors who have just embarked on military training at Kaweweta. The Police promised to deploy 16 Doctors while the Prison services promised to deploy three Doctors. At the end of the day, it’s only the five Doctors from the army led by a whole Director of Medical Services and three Doctors from the Prison services showed up at some public hospitals in Kampala.
As the medical situation ran out of hand, the regime swallowed its pride and pleaded with the striking medics to return to work. The medics suspended the strike two days ago giving the regime up to 26th December to have met their demands. Obviously, the regime was trying to dupe the medics the same way it has always duped teachers, non-teaching staff at higher institutions of learning and the State Prosecutors.
Historically, Museveni’s army enlisted only three Medical Doctors during the five years of the Bush War. These were Dr. Kiiza Besigye, Dr. Ronald Bata and Dr. Beingana. During the Bush War, Nursing Aides and Dispensers were locally given basic skills and deployed in different NRA units where they came to be known as ‘Doctors’.
Upon coming to power in 1986 the NRA attracted none qualified Medical Doctors but a barrage of Nurses, Nursing Aides, Dispensers, Laboratory Assistants and Medical Assistants. They were deployed in different units as Regimental Medical Officers (RMOs) where they masqueraded as Doctors. The NRA Directorate of Medical Services (DMS) was next to the Directorates of Finance, Supplies and Transport in terms of theft of resources by personnel. The major preoccupation of these RMOs was to collect medical supplies from the DMS at the army headquarters and sell them to private medical practitioners and the situation has remained so.
The UPDF has seven Division Hqs (including the SFC and Air force) that ought to be manned by at least two Doctors each. There are sixteen Brigade headquarters which ought to be manned by at least two Doctors each. It has sixty battalions that ought to be manned by at least one Doctor each. One Motorized Infantry Brigade that ought to be manned by at best two Doctors. It has one Tank Battalion that should at best be manned by one Doctor. It has one Engineering Brigade that ought to be manned by one Doctor. It has one Artillery Brigade that ought to be manned by two Doctors. It has two Air Defence Battalions that ought to be manned by two Doctors. It has eighteen training schools for both infantry, specialized and staff and command courses. It can be authoritatively stated that each of these establishments has a medical unit manned by a Regimental Medical Officer (RMO) who masquerades as a Doctor. But in actual sense, the army has less than 20 Doctors while both the Prison and Police can’t be having more than ten Doctors. Therefore, by ordering the deployment of military Doctors, Museveni was simply posturing. They are just non-existent. Even the eleven Doctors that the army threatened to pull from basic military training at Kaweweta have just been attracted into the army by the Somali Peace Keeping Mission (AMISOM).
In 2011 following a deadly Al-Shabaab attack on the Uganda contingent in Somalia where a number of soldiers lost lives, Museveni ordered for a probe into the possibility of “quack Doctors having infiltrated the army”. He instituted a six-man probe team headed by the then Army Commander, Gen. Aronda and comprised among other senior officers, Dr. Ochen, Katinda, Takirwa and others.
As usual, that was the end of the story. Six years later, last week when the public complained that the army Doctors deployed in public hospitals were unqualified, the Army Spokesman was quick to allay the fears saying that the army had the best medical personnel. Like in the rest of the country, the general medical situation in the military has been and remains appalling due to lack of professional personnel and gross theft of resources.
The few so called Consultant Doctors in the military simply use the privilege to run their private hospitals and clinics. In 2015, the army announced plans to construct a 100b national military hospital at Lower Mbuya using funds it had already secured from UN compensation for its equipment lost under AMISOM but to this date there is nothing to show.
Instead, in 2016 Museveni commissioned a $23B newly renovated former Grade B hospital next to State House in Entebbe to cater for Presidential Guard Unit, the SFC. Earlier this year he hatched plans to take over and incorporate the adjacent Grade A hospital into State House complex so that his State House and SFC can have a well-equipped hospital as the rest of the country bleeds.