MPs say hospitals becoming prisons for patients

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Members of Parliament working on the Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities Bill, 2017 have explained the essence of and need for the Bill to be made law.

Addressing the media on Friday, 12th January 2018, the mover of the Bill, Hon. Paul Akamba (Busiki, Namutumba) said that since the Patients’ Charter of 2009, no legislation had been made to ensure patients access to healthcare.

Akamba cited Article 4 of the Constitution and Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament that enjoin legislators to move motions to bridge gaps in the law.

He emphasized that once enacted, the new law would give patients a right to opinions on health services and health information from medical workers.

“Hospitals are incarcerating patients as though they are places of detention. The new law will ensure rights and responsibilities of patients,” said Akamba.

“We call on all Ugandans to rally their MPs to support the Bill because it doesn’t discriminate against anyone,” he added.

Ngora County MP, Hon. David Abala, a seconder of the Motion, highlighted the poor health services accorded to expectant mothers in rural health facilities saying, “Professionalism meant to be upheld by health workers is lacking.”

He emphasized that health was a right that had to be protected through legislation, hinting on the Patients’ Charter which he said hadn’t lived up to its billing.

“The Patients’ Charter is compared to a house without a roof, door or windows. We will work day and night to make sure this law is approved by Parliament.”

Independent MP Hon. Kaluya Andrew (Kigulu South, Iganga) commended civil society for their efforts to support the law.

He cited the Abuja declaration that recommends a health budget to constitute 15% of the national budget and said Uganda’s health budget stood 8/9%.

“We are not witch hunting health workers but rather fighting for the rights of our people in Uganda,” said Kaluya.

Robinah Kaitiritimba from the Uganda Health Consumers Organization said the bill is a mechanism to provide a legal framework to ensure a good relationship between patients and medical workers.

She added that she was happy to see progress on the bill that started in the Ninth Parliament.

“When a right is violated, we want an immediate course of redress on the matter. We believe Ministry of Health will embrace the bill,” said Kaitiritimba.

The Executive Director of Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS (AGHA) Uganda, Patrick Ojolong said the law is an opportunity to give MPs more insight into the health status and plight of Ugandans.

He added that a big percentage of Ugandans who received treatment from National Referrals didn’t know about the Patients’ Charter.

Early in the week, Hon. Paul Akamba tabled a motion seeking leave of the Parliament to introduce a private member’s Bill on Patient’s Rights and Responsibilities, which was unanimously supported by the House.

The Bill intends to improve the quality of healthcare services received by patients, empower patients to participate in the process of seeking or receiving healthcare and ensure ethical treatment of persons seeking or receiving healthcare.