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Do you know your rights as a patient?

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th September 2006 03:00 AM


PATIENTS no longer have to grieve over the unethical conduct of some health workers. When your rights are violated, do not hesitate to report to health management units, medical councils or the Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO) centres.

By Halima Shaban

PATIENTS no longer have to grieve over the unethical conduct of some health workers. When your rights are violated, do not hesitate to report to health management units, medical councils or the Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation (UNHCO) centres.

And if you don’t know how to get there, go to the Police for assistance.

UNHCO and the Ministry of Health have produced a draft patients’ charter that advocates patients’ rights.

With an estimated population of 27.821 million people, the health worker-patient ratio is so pathetic that many are likely to feel too needy to complain over any violation by health workers.

The small ratio of the health workers to patients in the country today has given rise to increased work load for each health worker, which leads to stress and poor customer care on the part of the patients, whose big numbers become a burden to the health worker.

But the UNHCO national coordinator, Robinah Kaitiritimba, says health is a human right that should be observed by every body regardless of the prevailing constraints.

They have, therefore, come up with a legal framework that will help both the health workers and the patients respect each other.
“Patient health rights are human entitlements for every body as a consumer of health services,” Kaitiritimba says. “Patients are entitled to certain rights and responsibilities that need to be observed and respected at all levels,” she adds.

According to the charter, these rights include:
  • The right to medical care: In examination, nursing, prescription and treatment, patients’ lives, bodies and personality must be respected.

  • Protection from discrimination: No medical facility shall discriminate between patients on grounds of disease, religion, race, sex, age, nationality, and country of birth or other such grounds.

  • Participation in decision-making: Every citizen has the right to participate in the development of health policies through recognised institutions.

  • Proper medical care: A patient shall be entitled to appropriate medical care, with regard to both its professionalism and quality assurance based on clinical need.

  • Be treated by a named health care provider: Every one has the right to know the identity and professional position of the person providing health care.

  • A health and safe environment: Everybody has a right to a healthy and safe environment that will ensure physical, mental and social well-being, including adequate water supply sanitation and waste disposal as well as protection from all forms of environmental danger such as pollution, ecological degradation and infection.

  • Refusal of treatment: A person may refuse treatment and such refusal can be verbal or in writing. However, a health worker may perform the treatment against the patients will, if the facility management has confirmed that the treatment is anticipated to significantly improve the patient’s condition

  • Be referred for a second opinion: Every person has a right to be referred for a second opinion.

  • Continuity of care: No patient shall be abandoned by a health care professional worker or a health facility, which initially took responsibility for one’s health.

  • Confidentiality and privacy: Information about patients should not be disclosed to other persons other than those of their choice.

  • Training and research: Patients have a right to participate in clinical training programmes for the purpose of obtaining information.

  • Informed consent: Every patient has the right to be given full and accurate information about the nature of one’s illness and diagnostic procedure.

  • Redress mechanism: Patients have a right to have their grievances addressed by the health institutions.

  • Receiving visitors: A hospitalised patient has a right to receive visitors according to the guidelines provided by the facility management.


  • Rita Kabatunzi, a legal officer with The New Vision, says patients who know about their rights demand the best.

    However, she says, the redress mechanism in the charter is not clear. “If the patients’ rights are violated, who should be petitioned? The enforcement procedure is vague,” Kabatunzi says.

    Do you know your rights as a patient?

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