Jinja Regional Referral Hospital authorities have insisted that no free intensive care unit (ICU) services will be offered to patients who have been referred to the facility for further management.
Instead, for a patient to receive ICU services at the facility, he or she will be required to part with Shs200,000 as admission fee per day, Dr Edward Nkurunziza, the hospital director, said yesterday.
Dr Nkurunziza says the money is for maintaining the ICU facilities.
The ICU was constructed with funding from Assist International, a US-based non-governmental organisation, to decongest Mulago National Referral Hospital.
This development follows a story published in Daily Monitor on October 14 in which it was revealed that the facility had been lying idle since it was commissioned in 2011.
This was after the equipment at the Jinja ICU unit got spoilt, forcing patients who visited the facility to be referred to Mulago hospital.
However, since Daily Monitor broke the story, four out of the 13 beds have been fixed though no patient had been admitted to the facility by the time of filing this story.
Dr Nkurunziza told Daily Monitor that there are no free ICU services in any hospital countrywide; therefore, patients referred to the Jinja facility will have to pay for maintenance of the department and equipment.
“I think government this time is not ready or lacks money to provide such (free) services to patients. Like any other hospital, patients have to pay for such services,” he said.
Dr Nkurunziza added that the hospital administration intends to charge each patient recommended for ICU services Shs200,000 upon admission per day, while other bills will follow later, depending on what has been used on the patients.
“We don’t have any patient admitted; however, this is a facility that must be active and open for 24 hours because we have standby workers for the unit,” he explained.
The Ministry of Health spokesperson, Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, said the hospital administration should ensure that patients be attended to once referred for ICU services.
“You know, some hospital administrators have their internal arrangements on how to give services to the patients. If his [Dr Nkurunziza’s] management is charging a maintenance fee, that is their decision. The Ministry of Health will come and give guidelines regarding that matter,” Mr Ainebyoona said.
He added that much as this is a government facility, ICU services are very expensive and patients are required to contribute some minimal fees to keep the facility functional.
Mr Ainebyoona, however, voiced concerns that the hospital administrator did not present the matter. “If he did, it would have not taken him this long but rather it was something that could have been fixed within a short period.”