The Ministry of health is seeking for Sh5b additional funds to cater for the payment of medical interns attached to different public health facilities around the country. Scrutinizing the report of the health committee of parliament on the ministerial Policy statement and Budget estimates for the financial year 2015/2016 yesterday, the MPs said the ministry had been allocated only Sh6b in the financial year 2015/2016, creating a shortfall of over Sh5b.
On May 12, medical interns at Mulago National Referral Hospital and others operating in different regional Referral Hospitals, laid down their tools over delayed monthly allowances. Their protest left many patients stranded.
“We should find money to cater for these interns; you cannot run a hospital without interns. Iam a doctor and I know this, most of the doctors are not in hospitals all the time, they are either in their clinics or private hospitals,” said Dr. Medard Bitekyerezo the committee chairperson. To raise the Sh5b deficit, the MPs resolved to do re-allocations in the ministry of Health Budget to which Sh 2.4b was cut on different items from the Budget to cover the gap.
The committee chaired by Bitekyerezo made cuts on items like short term consultancy, cleaning services, workshops and seminars and maintenance of the solar energy system in rural health centers among other proposed budget expenditure to raise funds for the interns.
“We should recommend that this money be re-allocated and that the ministry of finance comes in, to find the remaining balance of Sh 3b to cater for the interns,” said Atim Joy Ongom (Lira district).
The committee had earlier made re-allocations in the ministry of health Budget to raise the funds, however the ministry opposed the cuts and re-allocations saying they would affect their operations since most of the proposed cuts touch areas which are still underfunded.
“We had earlier made re-allocations in the budget and raised Sh 4.2b, but the Permanent secretary in the ministry of health Asuman Lukwago wrote to us advising that the proposed cuts would affect their budget, so we had to do fresh re-allocations,” said the committee’s economist.
According to the ministry of health, over 850 interns were deployed at hospitals in August last year. However according to Lukwago about 300 had been left out due to inadequate funds. He noted that interns receive a monthly upkeep of Sh 600,000 from the ministry, while the hospitals where they are deployed provide them with feeding and accommodation allowances. According to the budget framework paper, the Ministry has been allocated Sh 1.2trillion (6.5%) in the next financial year 2015/2016. It was adjusted upwards from Sh 963.7b.
However the allocation still remains below the recommended percentage of 15% funding of the health sector by the Abuja declaration. In April 2001 Abuja declaration, African governments committed themselves to allocating not less than 15% of their national budgets to the Health sector.
The National budget framework paper indicates that, there are over 19 unfunded health priorities for the 2015/2016 financial year. Some of the areas include Sh129b for enhancement of salaries for all staff in the health sector and Sh 25b for medical equipment, civil works, furniture and transport for 25 general hospitals. Others are Sh 40b for the implementation of Uganda Ambulance service and procurement of government ambulances.