On Wednesday, this newspaper ran a story titled, “Hospitals charge Shs5m per day to treat Covid-19”. It was one of the most trending stories of the day, because of the topical issue; the high cost of treatment.
For example at Case Hospital in Kampala, one has to part with Shs3m per day for a critically ill patient and Shs1.5m for moderate cases.
Likewise, at Victoria hospital, it was reported that one is required to pay Shs10m upfront to secure an ICU admission with daily charges staggering up to Shs5m per day.
The most commonly asked question has been how many Ugandans can afford these medical bills.
Simple maths shows that a critically ill Covid-19 patient, will on average spend between Shs62m and Shs155m for the two weeks period or even more. The story is not any different with oxygen needed daily by critically ill Covid-19 patients.
The least one can pay for oxygen on a daily basis in a private hospital is Shs2m.
The aforementioned medical fees are unthinkable and unaffordable for majority of Ugandans.
Lately, stories abound of how families are stuck as they can’t clear huge medical bills left behind by their beloved ones, who either died of the same Covid-19 or have recovered but in unbearable debt.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country in March last year, government took over the responsibility of treating each and every patient. Of course, it’s understandable that at the time, the numbers were few and manageable unlike now where the virus is community spread.
Given the prevailing circumstances, we propose that government comes in to regulate the seemingly out of hand medical bills being levied at will by private facilities at the expense of vulnerable citizens.
Government can do the following to cushion its citizens from exploitation by private hospitals; subsidise on the Covid-19 medical bills in private hospitals, give tax waivers on importation of equipment and oxygen used in treating Covid-19, among others.
The government can also through Parliament, seek for a supplementary budget and cushion these exorbitant bills.