The Ugandan Medical Association (UMA) has been on strike since Monday despite threats by the government which is accusing them of staging an illegal action.
The protest against low salaries and shortage of essential medical supplies in public hospitals follows unsuccessful talks with the government resulting in reported threats of arrest and disciplinary action.
Ugandan human rights advocacy group Chapter Four has backed the doctors saying they have the legal right to embark on an industrial action.
“The fundamental right to strike is an intrinsic corollary of the right to freedom of association. The Uganda Medical Association therefore should remain calm as the collective decision to conduct the industrial action is well grounded in law,” they said in a statement.
The group advised the government to stop “intimidating the doctors and engage them urgently to resolve the matter”.
“UMA should continue to engage with the government to have their demands addressed. UMA members should remain peaceful and act lawfully during the period of the industrial action,” it added.
NEW: Chapter Four Uganda has issued a legal guide on the legality of and rights of #doctors during the ongoing industrial action at the request of UMA. Government should stop the intimidations & continue to engage to urgently resolve it. #DoctorsStrike pic.twitter.com/FrrUALZJTL— Chapter Four Uganda (@chapter4uganda) November 10, 2017
The doctors were ordered by President Yoweri Museveni to return to work or face disciplinary action as he described the strike as illegal.
“I have a circular from the President with me directing the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) to monitor all activities in health facilities in their districts. All health workers who adhere to this directive shall not be subjected to any disciplinary action,” said the Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng.
The UMA responded with a threat of withdrawing emergency services if the government does not stop its threats.
“The negative action by the minister of health has threatened the progress made with Prime Minister [Ruhakana Rugunda] and the doctors’ fraternity. The doctors are considering immediate withdrawal of emergency health services,” local newspaper Daily Monitor quotes UMA president Dr Ekwaro Obuku.
The doctors are currently rendering services to children, pregnant women and accident victims.