“The reality is that attending to over 80% of patients you didn’t budget for can lead to issues like lack of drugs so patients are referred elsewhere."
KAMPALA-Legislators on the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Thursday queried the criteria used by the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs when referring patients to Nakasero Hospital.
Officials from the Ministry led by Edith Buturo, the accounting officer, were meeting the committee to discuss queries from the Auditor General's report on the 2017/18 financial year.
The report indicated that the ministry referred patients to Nakasero Hospital which is private and expensive and as a result over committing the entity, resulting into arrears of sh1.3b, yet there were public hospitals like Mulago and Bombo Military hospital which were more sustainable.
"Does Bombo Military Hospital not have vaccines for Hepatitis B that you had to go to Nakasero Hospital?" Tonny Ayoo (Kwania County) asked.
Ronald Nangamba, the Commissioner of Health at the entity explained that the Ministry had Memorandums of understanding with different private and public hospitals like Mulago, Mengo and Nakasero among others.
"The refurbishment process that Mulago Hospital is undergoing has affected the referral system. We still refer a bulk of patients to its heart and cancer institute but the reality is; they don't have all the services needed," Nangamba added.
He also told the committee that Bombo Military Hospital, which is the Uganda People's Defence Forces' referral hospital but 80% of the patients were civilians with no affiliation to the UPDF, which overwhelmed the hospital.
"The reality is that attending to over 80% of patients you didn't budget for can lead to issues like lack of drugs so patients are referred elsewhere," Nangamba said.
Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu County West) argued that the soldiers were supposed to be made a priority at the hospital.
"This committee is not against soldiers getting health care, the issue is the way you do the referrals. At the end of the day, doctors at Nakasero are the same in Mulago. There must be criteria followed," Ssewungu said.
Ayoo also asked the Ministry of health about the problem of equipment being overwhelmed by the large percentage of civilians.
"How do you continue to suffer instead of contacting the appropriate ministry so that services are improved? We end up defeating the purpose of the UPDF," he said, adding that there were other institutes that can provide cheaper services.
Buturo said the ministry had guidelines it followed when making referrals. She added that both the health and finance ministries had been contacted over the issue of the influx in civilian patients.
"We do not refer by rank, we refer by ailment," she said while tabling the guidelines to the committee.