The Deputy Director of Criminal Investigations Directorate –CID Paul Katto Tumuhimbise has ordered commanders of regional/district investigations departments to probe and apprehend all private health service care providers overcharging, retaining patients and bodies of their clients for failure to clear medical bills.
In his internal Memo titled ‘Overcharging patients and other forms of misconduct by private health care providers’ Katto indicated that the practice of overcharging patients and holding them plus dead bodies is not only illegal but inhuman and should be stopped.
“You are therefore directed to take interest in investigating and apprehending private healthcare providers who continue to break the law by committing offences like wrongful confinement and hindering burial of the dead that are closely stipulated in the penal code,” Katto’s directive reads in part.
The circular comes two months after Centre for Health Rights and Development –CEHURD won a case against the Attorney General, The Medical and Dental Practitioners Council, and the Minister of Health for failure to stop what it termed as exorbitant, unjustified, and extortionate bills private hospitals were subjecting patients to.
There was a public outcry during the onset of the second wave of COVID-19 between April and June this year where some private hospitals ordered families to first deposit as much as Shillings 5 million before their critically ill patients could be admitted in ICU or put on oxygen.
Some people came out accusing hospitals of demanding more than Shillings 50 million in order to release recovered patients or bodies for burial.
On July 7th, 2021, the High Court ordered the government, minister of health, and medical and dental practitioners council to make regulations on fees chargeable by hospitals.
“The Medical and Dental Practitioners Council to make recommendations to the Minister of Health on reasonable fees chargeable by hospitals for treatment and management of persons suffering from COVID-19,” the ruling read.
Grace Ssali Kiwanuka, the Executive Director of Uganda Healthcare Federation reminds CID that as private healthcare providers they are regulated by the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioner Council, Ministry of Health or the parliamentary committee on health.
Ssali adds that as private healthcare providers often get challenges with patients who they refer to government facilities in vain leading to accumulation of the medical bills.