Four representative pre-medical interns have petitioned the Civil Division of the High Court seeking approval to file a suit against the Government for failing to deploy them.
The petitioners, including Dr. Bill Adrati; Judith Lukwago, David Mugyema, and Wyckliff Ainamatsiko, seek to institute legal proceedings against the Ministry of Health and the Attorney General.
In their intended lawsuit which involves 1,364 medical doctors, nurses, midwives, and pharmacists, the group wants to challenge the Ministry of Health’s directive for them to self-sponsor their internships without funds to cover their allowances.
We, as applicants, will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the represented class because we are fully aware of the risks and responsibilities of being named applicants and class representatives and have engaged qualified lawyers to assist us in the prosecution of the matter.” Their petition was read in part.
They explained that the allowances provided by the government help them cover expenses such as accommodation, meals, and transport to their assigned hospitals as many of them come from impoverished backgrounds.
According to the applicants, the failure to deploy them not only jeopardizes their right to employment, as they cannot obtain a medical practicing certificate without completing a full-year internship in a public hospital but also affects service delivery in hospitals.
Pre-medical interns constitute 60% of the human resources in those facilities. Through their legal representatives at Mugarula, Kwarisiima Company Advocates, they accuse the Ministry of Health of violating their right to further education and obtain higher qualifications in their respective medical fields.
Their petition further states that they will seek court orders to direct the Ministry of Health to deploy them as soon as possible to mitigate the labor crisis faced by Kawolo and Mbarara Hospitals.
The Ministry of Health and the Attorney General, listed as respondents, is yet to respond to the application for a representative suit from the student doctors. The court hearing for the matter has not been scheduled.
Last week, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Diana Atwine, implored pre-medical interns who can afford to begin paying for their training pending releases for their allowances from the Ministry of Finance.
Medical interns are entitled to a monthly allowance of 2.5 million Shillings, which is intended to cover accommodation and meals. In April 2023, the disgruntled pre-medical interns petitioned Parliament over the delayed commencement of medical internships for the year 2023/2024.
Opposition legislators have equally challenged the Ministry of Health that it does not have the authority to modify the terms and conditions of the deployment of pre-medical interns, describing the move as discriminatory and a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution on equality before the law.