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Palliative care should be included in National Health Insurance scheme-PCAU

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Palliative Care Association of Uganda -PCAU, has asked parliament to consider incorporating a provision on palliative care services in the proposed National Health Insurance Bill, 2019.

Officials from the association made the appeal when they appeared before the parliamentary health committee to submit views on the Bill.

The National Health Insurance Scheme Bill 2019 seeks among others to create a Universal Health Care scheme to improve health outcomes and expand access to essential health care services for all people in need.

The scheme is expected to pool resources from the rich and healthy people in formal and informal sector to subsidize medical treatment for the poor, street children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.

PCAU country director, Mark Bikosa Mwesiga says the association supports the Bill because it is meant to provide universal health coverage to all, particularly the vulnerable who include terminally ill patients who need palliative care.

Palliative care is an approach to improve the quality of life of patients with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses. These patients include diagnosed with cancer, severe organ diseases such as end-stage liver disease, advanced heart failure and HIV/AIDs among other illnesses.

The palliative care services should include provision of essential medicines, equipment, human resources among others.

It is estimated that close to 35 million people are terminally ill, most of whom live in low and middle-income countries including Uganda.

Mwesiga says the Bill is however silent on palliative services, which he says close to 78 percent of terminally ill patients need in Uganda.

The Bill provides that all government hospitals and health centres and accredited private health facilities will be contracted as health care providers across Uganda.

However, Mwesiga says the Bill does not also recognize the hospice organizations that provide palliative care services.

Mwesiga added that the Bill should also allow palliative care specialists to be accredited to work in the accredited health insurance service providers.

However, Kyotera woman MP Robin Ssentongo asked how the scheme will provide for palliative care benefits amidst the failure to implement the 2005 home care policy and inadequate health workers.

Mwesiga says that the gender ministry is trying to revive the home care policy but it is important that palliative care services are also provided for patients outside health facilities.

Ntwetwe County MP, Joel Yoweri Ssebikaali says that the association should expand palliative care services beyond the current 97 districts in the country.

The association is among the 16 stakeholders who have so far made submissions to the committee on the Bill. The committee is currently scrutinizing the Bill.

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