Court okays export of Ugandan doctors

KAMPALA.

The High Court has rejected the application for a temporary order to block the government from exporting at least 283 medical specialists to the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago.

Justice Elizabeth Musoke, in her ruling on April 10, said she had not found merit in the petition and suggested it was politically motivated.
“I found nothing to convince me that the issues do not rotate around the political question doctrine.

Unless otherwise convinced in the main cause, at this point I am persuaded that since the decision to export health workers to Trinidad and Tobago was a decision of the executive arm of government, it remains a political question which would ordinarily have nothing to do with the courts,” she ruled.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the deal to export Ugandan health workers to Trinidad and Tobago is aimed at strengthening “bilateral relations” between the two countries.

A local think tank, Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) had petitioned court to issue a temporary order to halt the exportation of the Ugandan health workers until conclusion of the main cause challenging the deal.

The IPPR had argued that there were ‘serious issues to be tried’ and that unless the deal was halted, there would be “irreparable damage to public health if the health workers departed before the conclusion of the main case.

However, the judge rejected this argument. “It is quite true that the prospect of losing such high numbers of health professionals in light of the prevailing circumstances and scarcity of resources is a grim one,” she said but added: “This doctrine is to the effect that certain disputes are best suited for resolution by other government actors. I shall wait to be convinced on the balance of convenience in the main cause.”

She said courts may not interfere in how government deploys its resources.
“Further, court’s intervention would be appropriate if the health professionals, having been educated by the government, had been bonded to work for government for certain period which had not expired,” the judge reasoned.

IPPR’s executive director Justinian Kateera described the ruling as the “greatest surprise in jurisprudence”. He said the “learned judge erred in the most fundamental way since the legal mechanism of judicial review is by definition concerned with the review of officials’ actions.”
The date for hearing of the main suit is yet to be fixed.

Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Fred Opolot told Saturday Monitor they would proceed with the deal, which has been castigated by donors, health rights organisations and MPs, as illogical.

“The Ministry of Gender has the mandate to deal with the externalisation of labour, and they are working on a Cabinet paper they will present to Cabinet to actualise the going of the doctors,” Mr Opolot said.

Last month the Belgian government withdrew Shs34 billion aid to Uganda’s health sector over the matter.

Uganda’s health worker- to-population ratio is 1:1,298 against the World Health Organisation’s recommended average of 1 to 439. The doctor-to-patient ratio stands at 1 to 24,725 and for nurses, it is 1 to 11,000.

SHORT LIST

The final shortlist of health workers for export include: 15 of 28 orthopaedics Uganda has, 4 of 6 urologists, 15 of 91 internal medicine specialists, 15 of 92 paediatrics, 4 of 25 ophthalmologists, 4 of 11 registered psychiatrists and radiologists.

Others are: 20 radiologists, 15 of 126 gynaecologists in the country, 4 of the 15 pathologists, 4 ophthalmologists, and 15 general surgeons.

musisif@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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