Private hospitals agree to cut Covid treatment charges

Friday June 25 2021
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State House Anti Corruption Unit boss Col Edith Nakalema (left) interacts with health experts after the meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister on June 24. PHOTO | STEPHEN OTAGE

By Tonny Abet
By Stephen Otage

Proprietors of private hospitals yesterday requested State House’s Anti-Corruption Unit to give them up to Monday, to review the cost of treating Covid-19 patients and report to government next week. 

Although in principle, the owners of private hospitals resolved to review the charges per day after meeting Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja on Monday to iron out a few things. 

They promised that a harmonised position on how much a Covid-19 patient will pay in private facilities will be communicated next week. 

Col Edith Nakalema, the head of the State House  Anti-Corruption Unit, convened an emergency meeting with the owners of private hospitals after Daily Monitor consistently highlighted the plight of struggling families and several complaints about “exorbitant daily charges” to treat a critically ill patient which go as high as Shs5 million.  

“This is a consultative meeting to address the public outcry for treatment of Covid-19 patients. Our unit has received 496 complaints from the public about private facilities and we have invited you  to provide solutions and address the public outcry,” Ms Nakalema said. 

The owners of private hospitals also requested government to involve them in the procurement of essential supplies for Covid-19 treatment. 

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They complained about the cost of personal protective equipment (PPEs), asked government to help them set up oxygen plants in health facilities and waive some of the taxes. They have also requested ventilators and a special fund where they can borrow at a low interest rate. 

Ms Grace Ssali Kiwanuka, the executive director of Uganda Health Care Federation, the umbrella body for private players in health sector in the country, said they are going to hold meetings with the members to reach practical resolutions. 

Ms Kiwanuka said among the issues that private hospitals will iron out in their meeting include “reviewing costs and bills, areas of concession on oxygen, daily payment for health workers” which are contributing to the high charges for treatment.

Other areas include sticking to the guidelines on the use of antibiotics, how to rationalise the drug use and regulate high-frequency drugs.

Pharmacists at Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda raised alarm over irrational and unethical prescription of drugs for Covid-19, the vices experts warned were increasing cases of severe disease and causing drug resistance.

Dr Joel Okullo, the chairman of Uganda Dental and Medical Practitioners Council (UDMPC), said facilities are denying patients services unless they pay a deposit first and some are even refusing to  discharge patients or releasing the bodies of those who have died unless the medical bill is cleared.   

Ms Kiwanuka responded: “We are also going to get consent from parents that they commit to pay following a deposit against their bill that should be payable within 24 hours. We will commit to giving treatment straightway, but we will require that they pay a deposit within 24 hours.” 

The private hospitals also made close to a dozen requests to the government regarding care for Covid-19 patients to cushion them from high costs of essential supplies as experts warn of the third and fourth waves of the pandemic.

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