Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Activists under the Southern Region Social Rights Association-SRSRA want the private wing inside Masaka Regional Referral Hospital closed, saying that it is contributing to the exploitation of patients.
The hospital management operates a private wing where patients are required to pay for all health services unlike in the general departments that offer free services.
However, the social rights activists argue that the hospital management operates both the private wing and the general wards almost as a single facility, which affects underprivileged patients who cannot afford to pay for health services.
Swaibu Makumbi, the chairperson of the Southern Region Social Rights Association alleges that despite charging patients, the private wing competes for medical equipment with the general wards and priority is often given to paying patients and oftentimes, the underprivileged are sidelined.
He says that on several occasions, patients that would ideally be attended to in general wards are coerced to go to the private wing and eventually many end up struggling to raise the money for the services.
According to Makumbi, they want the hospital to close the private wing to enable patients to draw a clear distinction between the two such that they can make informed decisions.
The activists have accordingly petitioned the Ministry of Health and the State House Health Monitoring unit demanding the immediate relocation of the private wing to another site, arguing that this will help the underprivileged patients to access quality healthcare without paying for it heavily.
Makumbi says that they intend to stage protests should the authorities fail to handle their concerns in a month’s period.
Farouk Ssemuga, a patient caretaker in the psychiatric ward claims that the private wing is also being used as a channel through, which health workers extort money from patients.
“We are usually asked to give them money for drugs, which we are told are available only in the private wing but to our surprise, some of the drugs have Government of Uganda labels,” he argues.
Besides its relocation, Ssemuga wants the private wing to have separate health workers from those deployed in the general wards as a way of ensuring equitable and efficient delivery of services to patients.
But Dr. Nathan Onyaci, the Director of Masaka Regional Referral Hospital has challenged the activists to substantiate their allegations with evidence of extortion or coercion of the underprivileged patients. He says that their internal control mechanisms can deal with such inconsistencies once identified.
Dr. Onyaci downplays the demand for the relocation of their private wing explaining that it operates on complimentary terms with the other public departments of the hospital and that it does not create any clashes or structural inequality in the quality of services delivered.