Grace Kiwanuka, the Executive Director for the Private Health Providers Umbrella body says that since the height of the second COVID-19 wave where patients were charged high fees and in some hospitals, and bodies were detained, they moved a daily updates directive for all their members.
Private health service providers are stuck with patients, many of whom cannot afford the cost of treatment, but have also refused to leave the facilities and seek medical attention elsewhere.
Kiwanuka, the Executive Director for the Private Health Providers Umbrella body
says that since the height of the second COVID-19 wave where
patients were charged high fees and in some hospitals, and bodies were detained, they moved a daily updates directive for all their members.
But, in an interview with URN on Monday, Kiwanuka said
that hospitals are reporting that even as patients are given daily updates on
how their bill stands, many refuse to be referred early on to free government facilities
even now when numbers in admission are very low, yet they know they will
struggle to pay.
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Kiwanuka's comments come days after the Police’s Directorate of
Criminal Investigations issued a directive to its officers to probe
and apprehend all private providers overcharging, retaining patients and bodies
of their clients for failure to clear medical bills. The Deputy CID Chief Paul Katto Tumuhimbise indicated
that the practice of overcharging patients and holding them plus bodies is
not only illegal but inhuman and should be stopped.
However, Kiwanuka says this memo was unnecessary especially
now that they have come up with ways to ensure that the problem is solved. When it
comes to detaining bodies, she said with guidance from their regulator,
the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council (UMDPC) they have come up with
payment plans that can allow families to settle the debt in installments agreed
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Dr Katumba Ssentongo, the Registrar of the
council told URN on Monday that they had made recommendations to the Ministry
of Health on the charges which should be made public by the health minister soon. He said the police can only intervene when the issue
has to do with the detention of bodies but can not do much about the hospital
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He couldn’t divulge the details of their recommendations but
already, the court had directed two months ago that the council offers direction
to the government on the fees in a case filed by the Civil Society Organization Center for Health Human
Rights Development (CEHURD). In response, UMDPC noted that while they had reports of hospitals
illegally detaining patients, they had also recorded cases of patients and relatives
of the dead disappearing for fear of taking the obligation of paying the
accumulated medical fees.
As the ping-pong over medical fees that has had
the intervention of many accountability entities including parliament and the State
House Anti- Corruption Unit continues, Kiwanuka says this risks the sustainability
of health service business.
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Meanwhile, the Uganda Medical Association said the lasting
solution for access to care and hospital charges has a lot to do with the public’s
confidence in the quality of care that government provides.
Dr Richard Idro, the President of the Association said in
an earlier interview that while the government had made a restocking plan of their
facilities, many upcountry hospitals still operate without a functional
intensive Care Unit and their medical oxygen supplies were also still minimum yet
they are vital in the management of critical COVID-19 patients.