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MPs grill private hospitals for retaining dead bodies, exorbitant fees

The Parliamentary taskforce on COVID-19 chaired by Abdul Katuntu met stakeholders from the private hospitals at Parliament to among other things look into the high costs of COVID-19 treatment.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A team of private health service providers came under fire from the Covid-19 taskforce of Parliament for holding the bodies of Covid-19 victims and patients over unpaid bills.

Several families whose relatives have succumbed to Covid-19 have failed to pick their bodies from private facilities because of exorbitant treatment charges. In some incidents, the facilities have also held hostage patients for failure to clear their medical bills.

Many of the private hospitals charge between Shillings 3.5 million and five million daily for patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Some of the prominent private health facilities are International Hospital Kampala (IHK), Medipal Hospital, Nakasero Hospital, Case Hospital, Norvik Hospital, UMC and TMR Hospitals.

On Tuesday, the COVID-19 taskforce of Parliament tasked the private health service providers under their umbrella Uganda Healthcare Federation (UHF) to explain the high charges and retention of bodies over unpaid bills. During the meeting, the West Budama South MP, Dr. Emmanuel Otala put to the private health facilities that they have lost it by retaining patients and bodies of Covid-19 victims.

Anna Adeke Ebaju, the Soroti Woman MP said the hospitals have crossed the line by holding people’s bodies at ransom. She says there is need to regulate the fees charged by private health facilities.

Dr. Nicholas Kamara, the Kabale Municipality MP and committee chairperson, Abdu Katuntu tasked the hospitals to explain why they are prescribing very expensive medicine which isn’t necessary.

In their defence, the private health service providers defended the costs saying government needs to step in and support them. Grace Ssali Kiwanuka, the Executive Director UHF said ICU medication, nursing care, and oxygen raise the costs of treatment for critical Covid-19 patients. She said that the basic cost of an ICU patient per day is Shillings 3.5million.

Kiwanuka who presented a breakdown of the costs before the committee said that ICU and non-ICU drugs take up to Shillings 1.1 million a day, human resources like nursing takes Shillings 805,000 a day, bed and the ventilator Shillings 560,000, consumables Shillings 385,000, laboratory Shillings 315,000 and administration and imaging Shillings 245,000 and 35,000 respectively each day.

She proposed that for things to change, private hospitals need support on oxygen, high water and electricity bills, pooled procurement for support medicine, and establishment of a medical credit scheme and provision of equipment during the pandemic. On detention of patients and bodies, Kiwanuka, said they need guidance on how to deal with people who are unwilling or unable to pay.

Ronald Akankwansa, the finance officer Case hospital said the cost of supplies is so high which should be handled.

Richard Lukandwa, the medical director Medipal said the ultimate solution lies in vaccination.

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