Dr Mariam Mulungi, the medical officer for Rubaga division, said double taxation is unfair to clinics because they help in offering free services such as family planning and Immunisation, which is not the case with other businesses.
KAMPALA - A number of private clinics in Rubaga division have closed down over double taxation by both the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council and the trade ministry.
Dr Mariam Mulungi, the medical officer for Rubaga division, revealed that last year, the division had about 264 clinics, but today, not even a quarter of these health facilities have renewed their licences.
“The clinics have closed because they can no longer afford to pay for the trading licences,’’ Mulungi said.
Last year, the trade minister, Ameli Kyambadde, issued a directive that all clinics should pay trading licences like any other businesses. She said the taxation will be levied according to the services offered in the clinic with the lowest levy being sh300,000.
“Clinics are struggling and most of them can barely equip themselves. Many have not received their licences, meaning that they do not have money to renew their licences,’’ Mulungi said during a breakfast meeting on patients’ rights and responsibilities Bill at the Imperal Royale Hotel in Kampala on Friday.
Mulungi noted that a clinic with a laboratory or outpatient department is charged a different levy from that without.
She said double taxation is unfair to clinics because they help in offering free services such as family planning and Immunisation, among others, which is not the case with other businesses.
The president of the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) Dr Ekwaro Obuku, said the issue of double taxation is discouraging the private sector from offering services which would have otherwise helped the public sector.
“The demand for health services is high, yet sometimes the facilities lack medicines, overtaxation is discouraging the private sector from supporting the public,’’ Obuku said.
Ngora County MP David Abala, who is also a member of the health committee in Parliament, said it is unfortunate that clinics are over-taxed.
“Clinic owners should petition Parliament on this matter because it is a big problem,” Abala advised.
The rights and responsibilities Bill seeks to empower patients to participate in the process of seeking or receiving healthcare. It also requires that a patient is treated with respect and dignity.
Currently, the patients’ rights are provided for in the patients charter under the health ministry, but the charter lacks the legal force of the law.
The Bill obliges a health worker to treat patients with dignity at all stages of healthcare, including during making ward rounds. It prohibits the involvement of patients in clinical trails without obtaining the patient’s informed consent.
A person who contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding 48 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.
Dina Apio from Action Group for Health Human Rights and HIV/AIDS said the law will help patients to have quality healthcare, adding that previously there have been several cases of violation of patients’ rights that could not be pursued. However, with this law in place, cases will effectively be handled.
“Most patients are not aware of their rights and they think health workers are doing them a favour, not knowing that they have a right to proper healthcare,’’ Apio noted.