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Activists want Patient Rights Law expedited

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Health activists have attributed the continued shelving of the Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities Bill which was first tabled in parliament in 2015 to the fear by government to be held accountable when it comes to provision of healthcare.

Robinah Kaitiritimba, the executive director Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation says that this would be a good time to pass the bill considering that the country is discussing key solutions for health like the national health insurance, parliament is still failing to work on it even as it was reintroduced in parliament early this year.

She said that the fact that it continues to gather dust on the shelves of parliament shows that government is afraid of accountability since the piece of law is expected to empower users of health services to have a real community voice and be able to hold service providers accountable.

In an interview with Uganda Radio Network, Kaitiritimba said they have been pushing for the law since 2015 but considering it has been impossible adding that this could be because there are tough provisions that require government to not only commit enough resources for quality improvement but to also provide accountability regarding what the money allocated to health is used for.

On his part, Dr Moses Muwonge, the Executive Director SAMASHA Uganda said once passed the law will help with emerging challenges of human rights violations in healthcare that are becoming more apparent with increase in hospital costs and yet government seems to currently have no solutions for them. He, for instance, pointed out issues of detainment of patients, withholding of patients medical records by facilities among them.

Currently, patients’ rights are provided for under the patients’ charter which according to the activists lacks legal backing. The new law being pushed for provides for rights of patients in a health care system, rights and responsibilities of health workers and a mechanism for complaint and appeal by both parties.

It also has provisions on financing healthcare which puts the obligation of footing medical bills on the patient basing on what they agree on with the service provider.

Without coming up with such enabling laws, Kaitiritimba says that even the much popularized national health insurance as a fix to Uganda’s health challenges may fail to yield results since consumers are not involved and their rights are not put into consideration.

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