Three hospitals toss Covid patient over cash, dies in ambulance

Angel Nakasango, who passed away on Friday, June 18. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • The incident adds to the increasing complaints about ethical issues around Covid-19 treatment.

Mr Dunstan Kasango is still mourning his sister, Angel Nakasango, who passed away on Friday, June 18 at Kampala Hospital after she failed to get emergency care because the family could not raise upfront payment for treatment.

“My sister was not feeling well, [so], we went to International Hospital Kampala (IHK) in Namuwongo, Kampala to seek medication. They asked us to pay Shs4m deposit before they [could] work on her,” he told Daily Monitor at the weekend.

“We left IHK because we didn’t have the Shs4m in cash since she had no insurance,” he added.

But Mr Peter Mulindwa, the IHK head of communications, when asked about the incident and whether patients are asked to pay a deposit before accessing care, said he could only comment about the issue after assessing the hospital records.

Mr Kasango said after the frustration at IHK, they went to Medical Hub, which is located opposite Golf Course in Kololo, Kampala, but that they were referred to Devine Hospital in Kyengera, Wakiso District.  

“When we reached Devine, they asked us to give them a deposit of Shs2m, which we didn’t have and we tried begging for them to work on our sister as we look for the money in vain,” he said.

“They [Devine Hospital] took money as the most important thing than someone’s life, and they continued to ask us to be paying them daily Shs1.5m,” he said.

But the manager of the hospital who identified himself as Shafik, said the patient was critically ill with Covid-19 and that the hospital couldn’t handle her.

“We referred the patient to another hospital and we even provided them free oxygen cylinder to sustain the patient as she was being transferred,” he said.

Mr Kasango, however, said the sister had diabetes and that the laboratory tests done confirmed that she was negative for Covid-19. But some people who have Covid-19 may not be detected by the laboratory tests, and experts often recommend a chest CT scan to diagnose.

Mr Kasango said after the trouble at Devine hospital, the family hired an ambulance and took the critically ill sister to Kampala Hospital, but that they were also asked to pay a deposit.

“They [Kampala hospital] then asked us to pay Shs2m deposit before working on her; during that process, my sister was still in the ambulance on oxygen until it got finished,” said Mr Kasango.

“They asked us to pay Shs40,000 consultancy fee which we paid but after paying, they tried to remove her from the ambulance after about 30 minutes, but she had  passed on,” he said.

Mr Bright Kitwonda, the Kampala Hospital head of communications, said he would have to look through their records about the said patient today before he can comment.

The experience of Mr Kasango adds to the increasing complaints from members of the public about ethical issues around Covid-19 treatment and the exorbitant charges in private facilities.

Col Edith Nakalema, the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit,  last week summoned the proprietors of private hospitals and promised to review the charges and present the report to the government today.

Regulator speaks
Dr Joel Okullo, the chairperson of Uganda Dental and Medical Practitioners Council, said it is unethical for hospitals to ask for a deposit before offering care.  “We also believe that if they have a conversation with Ministry of Health, these prices could be brought down,” he added. But Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary at Ministry of Health, said the Public Health Act doesn’t give the ministry powers to order the private facilities to bring down the prices.