Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Uganda Exporting Health Workers to Trinidad and Tobago in UN Context

By Esther Nakkazi

The Uganda government has defended its move to 'export' 263 health workers saying it is part of the bilateral arrangement under the south-south Cooperation and within the context of the G7 and the United Nations, also known as the Technical Cooperation for Developing Countries (TCDC).

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, Uganda and Trinidad and Tobago are undertaking the exercise of recruitment for employment of medical workers from Uganda with the objective to establish a framework for the development of scientific, technical and economic cooperation.

"Therefore, both countries undertake to “Increase the exchange of knowledge, information, experiences and achievements in the priority fields of cooperation”, says a statement from the government.

A non-government organisation, the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR) sued the government of Uganda for 'brain drain' by exporting so many health workers yet the doctor to patient ratio is so low 1:24,725.

Donors like Belgium are withholding 11 million Euro in aid money for Uganda's health sector over its plan to export these health workers. More donors might be planning to take action.

In a press conference held today at the Media Centre, the government has said 'exporting the health workers is in their mandate to “Promote and Protect Uganda’s interest Abroad". As such their mandate requires that the Uganda embassies abroad source for employment to allow for transfer skills, technology and foreign exchange earnings amongst other benefits.

Currently, Uganda is recruiting for employment 263 health professionals to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The MOU between the two governments allows for 2 year contracts, subsequently allowing more Ugandans to take advantage of the opportunities.

Available data indicates that there were 59,000 registered health professionals in the country for all categories by end of 2014. In total, there were 57,050 approved vacant posts in government structure, of which 35,903 were filled, leaving 21,152 posts (UBOS Statistical Abstract 2014). The reason for not filling these vacancies varied including; budgetary constraints.

From the above figures, it implies that 63% of the health professionals are employed in the public sector, while 37% is either employed in the private sector, unemployed or left the country for greener pastures. Therefore, the absorptive capacity of the public service is limited, and this is the gap that the framework is trying to bridge, says a press release from the government of Uganda.

Further, the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council records 2014 indicate that, in the last 10 years, over 55 health training institutions have opened across the country. These are Government, faith based and the Private Sector institutions. This implies that graduate output levels of health workers has steadily increased, leading to high numbers of health workers in the job market, which cannot be solely absorbed by government and the private sector.

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