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Activists want patients' rights law expedited

By Paul Kiwuuwa

Added 8th January 2018 03:09 PM

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

Activists want patients' rights law expedited

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

PIC: Patients at Kagadi Hospital. The law is meant to improve healthcare in Uganda

Civil society organisations advocating health rights of vulnerable groups have called on Parliament to hasten the passing of the Patient's Rights and Responsibilities Bill 2017. 

According to the health rights activists, if passed into law, the Bill will promote freedom of patients whose rights have been violated by some health practitioners," Moses Talibita, the legal officer of Uganda National Health Users/Consumers Organisation (UNHCO), said.

The call was made during a training workshop by UNAHO for legislators to review health-based laws on Friday at Parliament in Kampala.

"The Bill places the patient at the centre of care, employing the patient welfare principle. It implores health workers to lead the advocacy of patient rights," Talibita said.

UNAHO is a coalition of  25 civil society organisations under the Voices for Health Rights. The organisations include Action Group for Health Human Rights and HIV/AIDS Uganda, Reproductive Health Uganda, Health Action Group, Joyce Fertility and Mental Health Uganda.

Existing law

The mover of the private members' Bill ‘Patient's Rights and Responsibilities Bill 2017' Paul Akamba (Busiki County) MP, said apparently there is no law governing patients' rights and obligations.

He said patients' rights are provided in the patients' charter under the Ministryof Health. However, it lacks a legal force.

Akamba said in December last year, he sought leave of Parliament to introduce a motion to present a Private Member's Bill, the ‘Patient's Rights and Responsibilities Bill 2017', to which parliaments Speaker Rebecca Kadaga agreed. Akamba said Kadaga notified the clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige, to put the proposed motion on the order paper, waiting for debate in the House.

"When House resumes, my first assignment will be to table the motion of the proposed Bill on the floor of Parliament. If granted leave of Parliament, we shall request for a certificate of financial implication signed by the finance minister as required by the Budget Act," Akamba said. 

He said the patients' rights and responsibilities Bill 2015 was first drafted by former Kigulu South MP Milton Muwuma in the 9th Parliament, but had not got a certificate of financial implication, the reason why he took over the proposed Bill.  

"Most Ugandans are potential customers of health centers and hospitals but they are not aware of  their rights and responsibilities," Akamba said.

Objective of the law

The objective of the Bill is to empower health consumers to demand high quality healthcare, promote the rights of patients and improve the quality of life of all Ugandans.

The Bill lists both the rights and the responsibilities of people using health services.

The Bill also seeks to ensure patients' privacy and the confidentiality of their medical information, informing patients and obtaining their consent before employing a medical intervention as well as providing a safe clinical environment.

Patient's responsibility

According to the Bill, patients are responsible for meeting any financial obligation as agree upon by the health unit.

Patients are also expected to give accurate information regarding their medical history and follow the treatment plan as agreed upon by the both healthy worker and the patient.

The Ntungamo Woman MP, Beatrice Rwakimari, said the proposed law should legitimise the patients' responsibility following the plan of care, providing accurate health information and communicating the comprehension of instructions on procedures and treatment.

She proposed that a section should be inserted in the Bill to protect poor patients who have been detained over non-payment of their medical bills.

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