Parliament has allowed three legislators to draft the Patient’s Rights and Responsibilities Bill, 2018 that will especially prohibit health service providers from detaining patients that fail to pay medical fees.
MPs Paul Akamba (Busiki), Andrew Kaluya (Kigulu South) and David Abala (Ngora) say the bill will not only ensure that guidelines in the patient’s charter are made legally binding, but will also improve health financing and protect patients’ rights.
“In some instances, patients are detained for long periods in health facilities and subjected to abuse and also denied vital services by health workers,” Akamba said in his justification to have the House approve the motion for the trio to secure leave of parliament to draft and introduce the bill.
According to the trio, lack of patients’ rights is psychologically distressing, economically disastrous and can result in some of the poorest people sliding further into poverty. These say detention of patients by some health facilities is an infringement on the patients’ human rights.
“If the bill is passed, it will ensure ethical treatment of patients seeking or receiving health care, including being treated with respect and dignity from an informed point of view,” Akamba said.
But the state minister for Health Sarah Opendi and Planning state minister David Bahati unsuccessfully opposed the motion on grounds that the bill would have serious financial implications on the economy.
Opendi said some issues the bill seeks to address are already provided for since primary health care is free to all Ugandans. Bahati, on the other hand, said until the bill has been drafted, it was impossible to tell what impact it would have on the consolidated fund.
The promoters of the bill argued that the patients’ charter of 2009, which should protect patients, is not legally binding and enforceable.
Despite the protests, when deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah asked members to vote, the House unanimously supported the move to grant the bill promoters leave of parliament.