Uganda govt, health protection body clash over Covid treatment

Kampala Streets Uganda only recently eased Coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Sun, 1 Aug 2021 Source: monitor.co.ug

The Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO) has challenged the government over the delay to regulate the cost of COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals, which many nationals describe as “exorbitant.”

This comes roughly two months after the Ministry of Health announced that discussions with private facilities were ongoing to cut the cost of Covid-19 treatment, but the regulator has not yet announced the final position.

Many hospitals in Kampala are charging between Shs3 million to Shs5 million per day to treat a critically-ill Covid patient in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and medical bill for the entire treatment duration goes past Shs100 million in some facilities, even though experts say about 60 per cent of patients in the country’s ICUs often die.

The head of UNHCO, Ms Robinah Kaitiritimba, has demanded that the ministry comes clear as a regulator and shield consumers from being exploited.

“We need information from the Ministry of Health on the cost of care. When people are saying they have been overcharged, that communities are being driven into poverty and others are being asked by hospitals to bring land titles, what is the real cost of care [for Covid-19]?” she demanded.

Ms Kaitiritimba made the remarks at a joint press conference with Uganda Healthcare Federation (UHF) and the Ministry of Health yesterday.

Reacting to UNHCO demand, Dr Timothy Musila, the assistant commissioner for Private Sector Coordination at the ministry, said the assumption that private facilities are profiteering from Covid-19 treatment is wrong.

He said the government is waiting for the National Health Insurance Scheme Act, which President Museveni is yet to assent to, to be able to negotiate and regulate the cost of medical care.

“Our initial analysis shows that handling a severe case of Covid-19 in High Dependency Units (HDUs) per day is around Shs800,000 and for a patient in ICU, it is around Shs3 million per day [in the public hospital]. Remember that was what some of the private facilities were charging per day,” he said.

The pandemic, which started last year has seen 93,675 people infected and killed 2,661 across the country.

Ms Grace Ssali Kiwanuka, the executive director of UHF, the umbrella body for private players in healthcare, said they are still negotiating with the government on how to bring down the cost of treatment.

She asked the government to introduce a special scheme where private facilities can borrow at low-interest rate. Ms Kiwanuka said the government should grant private hospitals a procurement window to buy vaccines from National Medical Stores “in order to drive down the cost of medical supplies and drugs”.

Source: monitor.co.ug