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Private Healthcare Providers Want to Access Supplies through NMS

This comes amidst piling complaints against Private healthcare providers charging exorbitantly for their services, which came to the limelight when hospitals started detaining patients and withholding bodies over fees for treating critical COVID-19 cases.

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Private healthcare providers want the government to allow them access medicines and sundries through the public medicines procuring agency, National Medical Stores (NMS).

This comes amidst piling complaints against private healthcare providers charging exorbitantly for their services, which came to the limelight when hospitals started detaining patients and withholding bodies over fees for treating critical COVID-19 cases. 

In a meeting with the Ministry of Health held early today, Grace Kiwanuka, the Executive Director of Uganda Healthcare Federation (UHF), the umbrella body for health providers said that while they purchase supplies through private procurement agencies like Joint Medical Stores (JMS) and Medical Access among others, procuring through NMS offers a better option since the country is going through an emergency.

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However, for this option to be considered, they would have to change the law to allow NMS to divert from its mandate.  But Dr Timothy Musila, an Assistant Commissioner in charge of Private-Public Partnerships in the ministry wasn't committal on whether this can be considered but rather he says COVID-19 is showing them that collaborations like these and pool procurement are the way to go.

He, for instance, says that if it wasn’t for the COVAX facility which is a partnership of players including private providers, many countries in Africa would still have not yet got a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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He however added that they are keener now on establishing the National Health Insurance Scheme which they hope will help with costs. 

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While these options are brainstormed, according to Robina Kaititiritimba, the Executive Director of Uganda Health Consumers Organization, there is no way the government can control the cost of care when they have failed to regulate the health sector.

For her, entities like the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council (UMDPC) should be put to task to fulfil their mandate and let the government provide information on how much is acceptable to be paid to access services in the country even when we are working under a free market economy. She says the recent crisis in costs exposed by COVID-19 shows just how much healthcare managers are ignorant about the cost of care.

Meanwhile, recently a local Human Rights NGO Center for Health Human Rights and Development run to court to ask the government to reign in the cost of care. The government has consented to this but nothing tangible has been done yet to ensure costs are regulated.

Now, apart from pool purchasing, UHF is pushing for a medical credit scheme saying that some of the members find challenges accessing credit considering that banks don’t find it profitable to attach medical infrastructure once they fail to pay their loans.

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