Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has directed expedite enacting a policy that will make it illegal for private hospitals and clinics to detain dead bodies or even recovered patients over nonpayment of medical bills.
The president is acting through the Ministry of Health and wants Uganda medical and dental practitioners’ council to revise the patients’ charter.
This he believes will make it strong on patients’ rights while increasing obligations and duty-bearing on health or medical service providers.
With the new charter, private hospitals and clinics will require authorization from the solicitor general’s office to hold back a patient or a dead body, a thing many have done since time immemorial.
But for the patients’ rights and responsibilities bill to pass into law, proper legislation will be required to enable Ugandans to benefit from increased transparency by health providers with a chance to choose whether to buy medication in the hospital or elsewhere.
In Uganda, each day in the intensive care unit costs about $ 296 with other medications in that department highly-priced yet the same can be accessed cheaply in pharmacies especially in the capital, Kampala.
Efforts to revise the patients’ charter have been led by Uganda national health users and consumers organization (UNHCO). “My appeal now is for legislators to be there for the public by reciprocating this good gesture by expediting enactment of the patients’ rights and responsibilities bill which has been in the offing since 2015 as private members bill,” said UNHCO executive director Robinah Kaitirima.
With the President determined to ease this situation that has hurt many Ugandan families, the possibility of it passing into law in the 11th parliament (starting next year) is imminent.
But the worries are also around the corner with Uganda medical and dental practitioners’ council registrar Dr.Katumba Sentongo issuing a caution to the public.
“Please don’t abusively utilize the newly revised charter to intentionally cheat hospitals”.
“In my life as a health practitioner, I have witnessed many things in Ugandan hospitals including patients that stealthily leave/or attempt minus pay”.
“And if that has been possible before the patients’ charter, how about when implemented” Katumba wondered.
A private practitioner who requested for anonymity questioned the intentions of this charter.
“Why target private businesses which government doesn’t facilitate in any way to thrive”.
Efforts to seek comments from the Ministry of Health permanent secretary Diana Atwine were futile.