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Bill barring hospitals from detaining patients over medical fees okayed

By Henry Sekanjako, Moses Mulondo

Added 5th November 2019 12:21 PM

he Bill that has been referred to the House’s committee on health for scrutiny before it can be passed into law by Parliament.

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he Bill that has been referred to the House’s committee on health for scrutiny before it can be passed into law by Parliament.

PATIENTS BILL   PARLIAMENT

KAMPALA - Parliament has okayed the consideration of the Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities Bill 2017, which among other provisions, will make it illegal for hospitals to detain patients that fail to pay their medical bills before they can be discharged.

Clause 3(2) of the bill states that a health unit or health worker shall not detain a patient or dead body because the patient or his or her relatives have failed to pay as a precondition for discharge or being referred to another health unit or for burial as the case shall be.

The Bill that has been referred to the House’s committee on health for scrutiny before it can be passed into law by Parliament,  proposes a penalty of a fine not less than twenty currency points or imprisonment for a term not less than six months for someone who contravenes this provision. 

Paul Akamba, the Busiki county MP, was last year granted leave by Parliament to introduce the Bill as a private members piece of legislation.

Tabling the Bill for first reading on Thursday last week, Akamba noted that he had been denied a certificate of financial implication by the ministry of finance, but the Public Finance Management Act empowers him to proceed with the Bill just in case finance declines to issue one.

Akamba noted that once passed into law, it will improve the quality of healthcare services and empower patients to participate in the process of seeking or receiving healthcare.

According to Akamba, currently, the country lacks a law governing patients’ rights and obligations in the health sector which he said the Bill will try to address.

 “Many patients go to clinics, health centers or hospitals for treatment, but they do not know what their rights and responsibilities are. If the Bill is passed into law, it will make it easier for patients to respond to doctors or health workers if they are treated harshly,” Akamba said.

The Bill was first introduced by former Kigulu South MP Milton Muwuma during the ninth Parliament.

However, the process hit a snag after the MP failed to secure a certificate of financial implications for consideration of the Bill by Parliament.

Allowing the Bill to be tabled for the first reading, after the ministry declined to issue a certificate of financial implication for the second time, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said; “The House is satisfied that he (Akamba) applied for the certificate of financial implication”.

The Bill empowers health consumers to demand high-quality healthcare, promote the rights of patients and to improve the quality of life of all Ugandans. It also lists both the rights and the responsibilities of people using health services.

According to health rights activists, if passed into law, the Bill will promote freedom of patients whose rights have been violated by some health practitioners.

“The Bill places the patient at the center of care, employing the patient welfare principle and implores health workers to lead the advocacy of patient rights,” Moses Talibita, the legal officer Uganda National Health Users/Consumers Organization (UNHCO), said.

Talibita, the architect of the Bill, said the proposed law builds citizens’ confidence in the healthcare system by making it easy for patients to be involved in their own healthcare.

 

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