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Private health providers blame high Covid-19 treatment costs on gov’t

Covid-19 patient under treatment in an Intensive Care Unit. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Private healthcare providers in Kampala have accused the government of not playing their part amidst continuous backlash over the high fees for treating Covid-19 patients.

Speaking during a meeting organized by Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPs) Uganda on Thursday, Dr Ian Clarke, the Chairman of the Uganda Healthcare Federation (UHF), an umbrella body for private providers said on Thursday that those hurling blames at them for high expenses are not looking at the causes.

Speaking just a week after rights organization CEHURD petitioned the court over the high fees, Clarke said there’s no profiteering happening as has been portrayed. He explained that it is only that Uganda is for the first time experiencing high numbers of people needing Intensive Care Services (ICU) at the same time.

He says that the largest percentage of patients who need ICU services outside of COVID-19, are usually covered by private health insurance and individuals don’t get to feel the pressure of cost directly.

Clarke also blamed the government for failing to purchase ventilators and other ICU equipment last year even as these were allocated money and planned for. Clarke says their charges range between Shs3.5m and Shs5million.

Dr Richard Lukandwa, the Chief Medical Officer of Medipal Hospital says they had to invest a lot while planning for the second wave. He says that they had to turn parts of the hospital into an emergency department.

According to Lukandwa, they also had to stop maternity services as they turned the unit into a High dependency unit.

He says most of their costs are entailed in the number of costly tests that they do on a single patient which require qualified health workers and yet they have to provide them PPEs that cost 80,000 Shillings and a daily allowance that doesn’t go below 120,000 Shillings per shift.

Dr Miriam Apiyo, the Medical Director of Case Medical Center says the country wasn’t prepared for the second wave which explains why 90% of the country’s ventilators are in Kampala as other areas struggle to find care or even the qualified health workers to work in ICUs.

As a result, she adds, people end up succumbing to the viral respiratory disease unnecessarily.

She warns that every time they try to cut costs especially in the intensive care unit, it puts the patient at risk of death that could have been avoided.

However, even as private providers are making case for the high fees, the court has directed in their July 8th ruling that the Ministry of Health reigns in on the high charges and the Attorney General has consented to it.

But Apiyo says that legislation or going to court over healthcare fees may not help as charges for critical care will remain high considering what is needed for an ICU to be able to run efficiently.

Some of the proposals that the private health providers have discussed with the government through their regulator, the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council include the pull purchasing of medicines and sundries with the government and also asked for subsidies while purchasing things like Personal Protective Equipment.

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