Gulu University Staff Threaten To Strike Over Unpaid Medical bills

Gulu University Vice Chancellor Prof George Openjuru said there was no longer a need for the support staff to strike as Gulu University had paid its debts with Lacor Hospital

Support staff at Gulu University have threatened to lay down their tools over what they term as failure by the University management to foot their medical expenses over the last two years.

The support staff say since February 2017, they have not been able to receive medical treatment from St Mary’s Hospital Lacor which had been contracted by the University management to offer medical services.

Acholi Times understands that St Mary’s Hospital Lacor stopped offering medical services to the support staff after the university management failed to clear an accumulated debt of Shs80 million in medical bills.

A total of 115 support staff and some 300 academic and administrative staff at Gulu University have over the years been receiving medical treatment from Lacor hospital in Gulu Town.

The support staff under their National Union of Educational Institution [NUEI] on Wednesday last week held a general Assembly at the University main Hall and resolved to lay down their tool on April 25 [Thursday] if they don’t get a clear feedback from university management.

Denis Odongpiny, NUEI General Secretary told Acholi Times in an interview Thursday that the support staff have been incurring huge expenses to foot their medical bill yet its budgeted for by the university.

“The support staff earn small salaries and on top of that they have other responsibilities. The University had earlier been footing these medical bills but now it’s not there. Our members are even having debts at some health facilities because they can’t afford to pay at once,” Mr Odongpiny said.

He said despite other junior staffs at the University not benefitting from health scheme, medical bills of some top officials are being clandestinely footed at Gulu Independent Hospital.

“We have got reports that some of the top University officials whenever they fall ill or their family members, they go and receive treatment from Gulu Independent Hospital. Their medical bills are paid by the University clandestinely yet the junior staffs foot their own,” Odongpiny said.

Christine Ayoo, an office Administrator at Faculty of Medicine, St Mary’s Hospital Lacor campus said she had incurred a bill of 2 million shilling treating a back injury.

We have paid the debt

In a closed door meeting held at the University, the Vice Chancellor Prof George Openjuru Ladah told staff that the University had already paid the accumulated debt to Lacor hospital.

Sources who attended the meeting but spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media said Prof Openjuru begged the staff not to strike since it tarnishes the image of the University.

No need to strike

Speaking to this website in an interview on Thursday, Prof Opejunru acknowledged the university owed Lacor Hospital Shs80 million. He revealed that the money was accumulated under his predecessor Prof Jack Nyeko Pen-Mogi when the University faced financial challenges. Openjuru, however said the university had since paid Lacor hospital the 80 million.

“I want to assure the staffs that the debt has been paid after management of St Mary’s Hospital Lacor gave us their account that is linked with the new IFMS. We paid it in bits and now it’s fully covered, they [staffs] will soon start receiving medical treatment,” Prof Openjuru said.

He dismissed claims that some top official’s medical expenses were being footed clandestinely at Gulu Independent Hospital arguing that it’s a privilege they enjoy and its legal.

Prof Openjuru also said the staff are free to hold demonstration since it’s there right to express dissatisfaction but noted that it would be useless since the university has paid the medical bill debt.

Dr Cyprian Opira, the Executive Director St Mary’s Hospital Lacor acknowledged that they had to stop offering medical treatment to the University staff following accumulation of the bills.

Asked whether Gulu University has paid what it owes the hospital, Dr Opira said he is yet to get an update from the accounts department on the payment.