Uganda Govt Sued Over High Covid-19 Treatment Bills

28 JUNE 2021

The Monitor (Kampala)

By Juliet Nalwooga and Anthony Wesaka

Government has been dragged to court over failure to regulate the high medical bills being charged by private health facilities for Covid-19 treatment.

As the country battles the second wave of Covid-19, several private hospitals around Kampala are charging between Shs3m and Shs5m per day for patients needing oxygen in the intensive care and high dependency units.

Likewise, the same hospitals are charging between Shs1m and Shs2.5m for moderate cases per day.

And on Friday, a health advocacy organisation, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and its executive director, Mr Moses Mulumba, petitioned the High Court in Kampala, seeking intervention.

Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Health minister, the Attorney General (AG) and the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council, have been listed as respondents.

"An order be issued against the respondents (minister Aceng, AG and the medical association), to intervene by regulating and causing a reduction of the soaring hospital rates for management and treatment of persons suffering from Covid-19," reads in part the court documents.

In his affidavit to support the petition, Mr Mulumba contends that the country is currently going through the ravaging effects of Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed lives of more than 900 Ugandans.

He adds that as result, some hospitals according to a survey by Daily Monitor, are unnecessarily charging very high medical bills.

"The rates charged by the hospitals are clearly exorbitant in nature and largely unbearable by hospitals in the treatment and management of persons suffering from Covid-19,"Mr Mulumba states.

Mr Mulumba avers that government is mandated by law to provide for the wellbeing and general safety of Ugandans including guarding them against any form of extortion and manipulation in access to social services.

"The respondents (Minister Aceng, AG and the medical association), have a statutory obligation to intervene and regulate medical fees chargeable by hospitals in the treatment and management of persons suffering from Covid-19," he states.

"Unless this honourable court weighs in and compels the respondents to intervene and regulate chargeable rates for management and treatment of Covid-19, Ugandans will undoubtedly continue to lose lives at the quest for huge profits by the hospitals," he adds.

By press time yesterday, Dr Aceng, government and the medical association, in their capacity as respondents, had not yet filed their defence before a hearing date can be fixed.

While appearing on NTV Uganda's On-the-Spot talk show more than a week ago, Minister Aceng lashed out at private health facilities for hiking prices for Covid-19 treatment.

"It's very unfortunate that some people are taking advantage of the vulnerable to make money during this time of Covid-19. This is not a time to make money, this is a time to save lives," she noted.

Govt response

Government and proprietors of health facilities met Col Edith Nakalema last week over the high medical bills. Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja is also expected to meet the owners of the health facilities today in a bid to reduce the medical bills.

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