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Catholic hospitals ‘won’t discriminate’ homosexuals

Catholic health facilities say they will not discriminate against gay patients, despite apparent restrictions associated with the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA).

Dr Sam Orach, the executive secretary of Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau (UCMB), yesterday said although AHA criminalises homosexuality, which is also considered a sin in the Church, homosexuals would not be locked out of Catholic hospitals.

“In the current context of the aftermath of the anti-homosexuality law, no health worker in our facilities has expressed concern that service provision is being affected. That is what we believe as UCMB. We equate this to the post-abortion care we provide to a sick woman who has otherwise criminally and immorally committed abortion.

We distinguish between a crime or a sin and the disease. Catholic health services are, therefore, non- discriminatory,” Orach said at the opening of UCMB’s hospital managers’ workshop in Kampala.

Since President Museveni assented to the AHA, donors have cut or withheld aid, although Health Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has insisted the health sector would remain non-discriminatory. Dr Orach also said that  the cost of services was rising while donor funds were reducing.

“This will force us to increase user fees if government does not subsidise costs. We advocate for government to help us provide health services especially in hard-to-reach areas like Karamoja, where, even if you increase user fees, you cannot expect patients to afford,” Orach said.

Catholic health facilities provide antiretroviral therapy to about 12 per cent HIV-positive people. Fifty-six per cent of these are due to support from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Orach said Catholic facilities were seeing a decline in client numbers. This has been attributed to reduced numbers of malaria cases as a result of better control and prevention measures, and  more prompt and effective treatment using village health teams. The use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets has increased from 13 per cent in 2001 to 41 per cent in 2010.

The Catholic health services network consists of 32 hospitals, 249 health centres and 13 training institutions for doctors, nurses, midwives and laboratory assistants. The Church has also partnered with government to make Lacor hospital a medical training site for Gulu University Medical School.

Dr Orach says health financing is an important issue for the sector. UCMB is looking to explore insurance, finding partners and asking for government subsidies. Government, he said, should look at the option of performance- based financing, where they can come in and fund hospitals which are doing well.

smwesigye@observer.ug

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