By Spy Uganda
Human rights activists have petitioned the Ministry of Health to reign in on hospitals and other health facilities in Uganda to stop the practice of detaining patients in hospital just because they have not cleared medical bills or refusing to give them treatment because they cannot afford it.
Though the umbrella body Enforcement of Patients and Health Workers’ Rights (EPHWOR), the activists, led by Sharon Lanyero, the EPHWOR Team Leader, have since written a petition to the Minister for Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, pleading with her to issue a directive that bar all hospitals and health facilities from detaining patients.
Their petition received by the Ministry of Health on July 30th reads in part thus; “Over the last decade, there has been a consistent practice of illegal detention of patients by health facilities, a common practice predominantly among private health centers, despite hopes that these sorts of practices would have been eradicated by your ministry by now.
For example, in a period of 3 years we have experienced such Patient detention by Health Facilities, Mr. Patrick Oboya was detained at International Hospital Kampala (IHK) for failure to pay treatment arrears, in the same vein, Nsambya Hospital detained a fishmonger for failure to pay his accrued bills.
St. Francis Hospital Nagalama recently detained (4) four mothers and newborn babies for failure to pay bills ranging from Shs200,000 and 100,000.”
They added that; “Fresh on our mind is the recent unfortunate incident at St. Francis Hospital Nsambya for detaining for over three months a mother who had lost her unborn child. Caroline Nassaka, who was a victim of rape lost her unborn child and her bill had accumulated to Shs3,932,300. The Hospital detained her in Regina ward until the entire bill is cleared and she was not allowed to bury the child she lost during the operation.
We are concerned that health facilities cannot detain patients who had undergone and endured trauma and pain throughout the time they are on their sickbed.
Detention of patients is contrary to article 23 and 29 (2) of the Ugandan Constitution that provides for liberty and freedom of movement. Further to that, article 24 provides for freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as exhibited by Nsambya Hospital for detaining a young mother who had endured trauma for 9 months but later detained for (3) three more months by a health facility.”
It should be noted that health facilities are not authorized by law to arrest, restrict or detain any person, because this is contrary to article 23 (2) of the constitution.
The activists thus want the Ministry of Health to make relevant policies to ensure that patients’ rights are upheld, follow up the Passing of the Patients’ Rights and Responsibility bill and the National Health Insurance bill that have passed their 1st reading in parliament into law.
They also want the Ministry to champion national legislative reforms in order to end the continuous impunity in public and private health facilities.
They also want the Uganda Human Rights Commission to invoke its investigatory powers provided by the constitution and interrogate acts of patients’ detention in health facilities and ensure that government complies with its responsibility of safeguarding patients’ rights.
The activists urged the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council to ensure smooth running of health facilities with no violation of patients’ rights, health facilities and health workers accused of violating patients’ rights should be subjected to disciplinary proceedings and appropriate sanctions in the circumstances.