Attempts by Paul Akamba, the Busiki County MP, to introduce a private member’s Bill entitled Patients’ Rights and Responsibility Bill 2017 has been met with stiff resistance from the Ministry of Health, after the State Minister of General Duties Sarah Opendi warned that passing the Bill will create problems for Uganda’s health sector.
While seeking leave of Parliament to table a private member’s bill, Akamba said that it will be critical at ensuring that guidelines in the Patient’s Charter are legally-binding.
Akamba also added that the Bill will go a long way in improving health financing, as well as protect patients’ rights, including seeking and receiving health care advisories.
“Health workers are trained on how to deal with patients and yet patients are not taught their rights anywhere, so it’s the health workers supposed to conduct themselves in an ethical way. For instance, if a health worker asks you why you got pregnant, that is not ethical and it’s not expected of them. It’s important for them to act with tolerance and to listen to the patients,” Akamba said.
Andrew Kaluya, the Kigulu South MP, seconded the motion, noting that the Bill will help save households from catastrophic expenditures and curb the patients’ rights violations.
“This practice of detaining patients for non-payment of Bills is an infringement of human rights. It is so common that many citizens wrongly believe that hospitals have the right to do so. The practice increases medical impoverishment,” Kuluya said.
However, Opendi opposed the move by Parliament to grant Akamba leave, warning it would have serious implications on health care service delivery.
“He (Akamba) has various serious implications if we moved with this Bill. I haven’t had a chance to look at what the Bill entails. In this country, Primary Health care is free, however tertiary care isn’t free,”
She added: “The Bill will have serious financial implications, which Ministry of Finance will speak to. When you move with this Bill, then we will need to have another Bill entitled the health workers’ Bill. It is going to create some bit of problem in the sector. We have clients charter is quite sufficient, we aren’t comfortable with this motion.”
She also informed Parliament that Government is in final stages of tabling the National Health Insurance Bill that will take care of all Akamba’s concerns.
However, when David Bahati, State Minister for Planning, was non- committal about the impact the Bill will have on the Consolidated Fund.
“The only way we can raise the issue is going to increase the charge on the consolidated fund is when we have the Bill. At this time, if a member can work closely with Ministry of Health, so that issues are incorporated before the Bill is tabled, because we haven’t seen any issues in charge of the consolidated fund,” Bahati said.
After Opendi failed to convince the August House, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah informed the House that Parliament had no right to stop debate on the motion since it didn’t contravene any sections of the Constitution and has no impact on the Consolidated Fund.
But without even bothering to debate the motion, the MPs voted unanimously to grant Akamba leave to table the Bill.