For years now, hospitals in Uganda have been detaining dead bodies and patients who have failed to fully pay their medical bills. Several civil societies such as Uganda National Health Users and Consumers Organization (UHCO) have been coming out to condemn the act, especially done by some renown health facilities.
It’s from this background that at the beginning of this week, President Yoweri Museveni through the Ministry of Health asked the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council to revise the Patients’ Charter.
The Patients’ Charter was established years back purposely to protect consumers and it’s the instrument that government or the regulator uses to define the rights of patients, duties and obligations of hospitals and those they employ.
However, most hospitals have been doing opposite as far as the charter and its mandatory requirements are concerned given the fact that some amendments were not ascended by the President as it is required.
Nevertheless, after the revision, the charter now makes it illegal for any health facilitate both public or private to detain a dead body due to uncleared medical bills. This was one of the new amendments that President Museveni highlighted.
It states that its totally unethical for any health facility to detain a dead body because of unpaid medical balances since they are not gazette centres for any detention.
It also states that in case the hospital (s) needs to detain a dead body or patient, they should first seek permission from the Solicitor General.
The Charter also gives patients the freedom to choose where they want to buy the prescribed medication from the same hospital where they are being treated or not. The hospital will allow Patients to be involved in making decisions regarding how long they intend to stay in the hospital in case they are admitted for medication.
The hospitals will also be required to increase transparency and corporate governance practices such as putting up suggestion boxes to enable patients to readily report mistreatment by health workers and other hospital employees.
It also requires patients’ honesty while disclosing their medical condition on arrival at the hospital or clinic to facilitate the medical teams to make the appropriate diagnostic decisions.
The Charter also tasks hospitals to operate toll-free telephone lines, WhatsApp and other social media platforms to facilitate maximum feedback from their clients who might wish to genuinely complain against any maltreatment by hospital employees.
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