Uganda: High costs of Covid-19 treatment, a problem for patients. 

Uganda: High costs of Covid-19 treatment, a problem for patients. 

Uganda: High costs of Covid-19 treatment, a problem for patients. 

/ Santé / Thursday, 08 July 2021 18:41

source photo: The Conversation


By Kabakura Jean Bosco Ceusi 

Ms Sarah Mirembe, mother of two, told Oeil d'humanité that her grandmother, Ms Robina Matovu, aged 70, was diagnosed with Covid-19 and admitted to Ntinda Hospital, in the suburbs of Kampala, on June 13.

“We were told to deposit Shs2.5m before the medics could act, but once the money was paid, the patient was immediately wheeled to an emergency room for that night,” she says.

The Uganda Dental and Medical Practitioners Council (UDMPC) says it is unethical for healthcare providers to ask for any down payment when emergency care should be provided in the first place to save lives.

Ms Mirembe adds: “However, the next day, grandma was transferred to a room which (I think) a patient had just left because its bathroom was dirty. We were not sure whether the previous occupant was also a Covid-19 patient, but when we asked to clean  the premises, nothing was done. So one of us bought disinfectants and cleaned it the room.” I also noticed that there was no nutritionist to guide us on what to feed the patient with, so the caretaker had to look for food from outside and bring it to the patient”.

Ms Mirembe says on June 15, her grandmother’s oxygen was allegedly given to ‘a more critical emergency’, meaning that she was not on oxygen until the next day.

Ms Mirembe’s family has since not known the « alleged » critically ill patient, who necessitated the removal of their own patient’s oxygen.

A general receipt shared by Ms Mirembe shows oxygen therapy was the most expensive item at the hospital. It costed  Shs3m per day, while physiotherapy amounted to  Shs200,000 per day and was only given from June 13 to 16.

It is worth noting that a critically ill Covid-19 patient uses around 10 oxygen cylinders per day, and this according to information from the umbrella body of private health facilities.

Each cylinder is refilled at around Shs40,000, meaning the hospital spends around Shs400,000, excluding delivery costs, which may not exceed Shs100,000. 

A family member, who is also a health professional but declined to mention his name, says they reportedly mooted the idea of sourcing the oxygen from outside in order to minimise costs, but their idea was totally rejected  by the hospital.

Dr Misaki Wayengera, the head of the Ministerial Scientific Advisory Committee on Covid-19, says chest physiotherapy is very good depending on the situation the patient is in. “There is a way we measure the amount of oxygen in blood using a pulse oximeter,” he says.

The family says their requested to have the Shs2.5m per day bill reduced , but this demand was also rejected, prompting them to suggest relocation of their patient to a Bugolobi-based health facility, which was charging Shs1m per day.

“It was then that the bill was reduced to Shs600,000 per day. For a bill to be reduced from Shs2.5m to just Shs600,000 per day means the original charge was very high in the first place,” the family member said.

He says the family ended up paying about Shs14m between June 13 - admission day- and June 25  - discharge day.

Ms Mirembe says that : 'private hospitals should not exploit the crisis and look at patients as cash cows'. She wanders why hospitals charge families for services which haven’t been fully offered.

Last week, Col Edith Nakalema, the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit.

In response, some owners of private hospitals complained of the cost of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and asked the government to help them set up oxygen plants in health facilities and waive some of the taxes they incur. They also requested ventilators and a special low interest rates fund to borrow from .

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