• Mon Sep 05 2016
  • Health activists warn on detention of patients

A patient at IHK dragged the facility to court after he was detained for failing to clear a medical bill
Henry Sekanjako
Journalist @ New vision
A patient at IHK dragged the facility to court after he was detained for failing to clear a medical bill

Health rights activists have condemned the detention of patients by hospitals, for failure to clear medical bills.

According to the Uganda National Health Users and Consumer's organization (UNHCO), it is illegal to detain a patient at a health facility, which is not a gazetted detention centre.

"It is criminal for any person to be detained in a place that  is not legally  gazetted, the only place we know is gazetted for detention is prison or police cells not a hospital" Moses Talibita, the legal officer UNHCO said.

Last week, Patrick Obiga, a patient at International Hospital Kampala (IHK), dragged the facility to the High Court in Kampala, after he was detained for failing to clear a balance of sh19.5m, out of the sh39m total medical bill.

However speaking during a dialogue with MPs, on the proposed Patients' Rights and Responsibilities Bill 2015 in Kampala over the weekend, the activists condemned Obiga's detention, and threatened to drag the hospital to the Human Rights Tribunal.

"If a patient cannot pay, the hospital should find ways of how that person can be helped rather than arresting them. If some one's bill is sh4m and they have given you sh2m, don't arrest them or make them sell their property" Robinah Kaitiritimba, the executive director UNHCO said.

To reduce on the cases of health rights abuses, the activists want Parliament to pass into law, the Patients' rights and Responsibilities Bill, to curb health rights violations.

Milton Muwuma, the former MP Kigulu South, who introduced the Bill in the ninth parliament, said there is need for a law to guard against discrimination in health care delivery.

"Using this law, we need to compel government, to ensure that all Ugandans get quality health care. When one is hospitalized, there should be medicines in hospitals," Muwuma said.

As a health right, Muwuma wants an informed consent from patients undergoing treatment as well as giving full information by doctors, to patients about the risks involved with medical procedures and medication.

According to the World Health Organization, there is a growing international consensus that all patients, have a fundamental right to privacy, confidentiality of their medical information, consent to or refuse treatment and information about the relevant risk associated with medical procedures done on them.

The proposed law which was tabled before Parliament for the first reading during the 9th Parliament empowers patients to give feedback (both positive and negative) about the health care they have received.

The Bill which is currently before the parliamentary committee on health, also seeks to provide equitable access to quality medical care, ensuring those patients' privacy and confidentiality of their medical information.

"This Bill intends to give rights to the patients, and also protect them, since we need a healthy population, for us to be able to achieve the middle income status. When a patient is receiving treatment, they should be told, the kind of medicine they are getting" Jacob Wangolo, the former MP Bunyole West said.

Explaining the importance of the Bill, Kaitritimba, told legislators that the Bill educates Ugandans on their health responsibilities, for health lives.

Beatrice Rwakimari (Ntunagmo district), who is among the MPs on the health committee, leading the campaign for the enactment of the law, said the Bill would help government reduce on the expenditure on treating illnesses, since Ugandans will be sensitized on living health lives.