Kampala. At least eight out of the 11 private clinics operating under the Africa Air Rescue (AAR) Healthcare Uganda, have been closed since last Friday after doctors went on strike, protesting low salaries compared to their counterparts in other private and public hospitals.
Some of the doctors Daily Monitor spoke to, said they decided to lay down their tools after management failed to live up to its promises from previous meetings held last year.
“The Uganda Medical Association (UMA) where we took our grievances after failure to reach an agreement on April 14, gave management four days to respond or else they give us a way forward to take industrial strike,” one of the striking doctors, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised, said yesterday. AAR headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, reportedly did not respond until 20 minutes to the Friday 17, 5pm deadline.
Their response through a law firm, one doctor who read the document noted, contained threats that the internal human resources department would take unspecified action on doctors who abandon or fail to return on duty.
“We started the strike on Friday midnight and by yesterday, we had managed to close eight clinics. There are also those which are still open, but with no doctors,” one of the striking doctors said.
Specifically, the doctors who receive between Shs1.8m and Shs2.1m net salary want their salaries adjusted to at least Shs3m.
Those working part-time are demanding that their current pay of Shs12,000 per hour be revised to Shs13,000.
The doctors also complained that the Shs15,000 given to specialists (such as paediatrics and gynaecologists) per patient is too little compared to the Shs50,000-Shs80,000 paid by patients.
AAR Healthcare Uganda Limited is a subsidiary of AAR Healthcare Holdings Limited operating in the East African region.
Mr Indren Pooven, the chief executive director of AAR Holdings Limited, said the board has approved the doctors’ pay raise, and the adjustments will be effected next week.
He, however, did not disclose the specifics.
“The team has distributed my memo this afternoon and we will work out and communicate the specifics to the respective people this coming week,” Mr Pooven said by telephone from Nairobi yesterday.
Dr Mukuuzi Muhereza, the UMA general secretary, criticised the AAR management’s threats to take legal action against the doctors demanding fair pay.
He asked the parties to instead settle the issues through negotiations and in the interest of patients.
“There has been a problem of poor communication by AAR management and, for us, what we want is for them to settle the issues amicably,” Dr Muhereza said.
Following the announced consent by the employers, some of the striking doctors said they won’t return to work until Mr Pooven’s promise is put to them in writing.