The Ministry of Health has said that it cannot control the cost of COVID-19 care at private hospitals. More than 100 private health providers have expressed interest and are awaiting accreditation from the health ministry, to provide care for COVID-19 patients, amidst reports that government facilities are overstretched.
So far, only Victoria Hospital and Medipal International Hospital have been allowed to manage the patients who are suffering from the disease. But there is public outcry about the cost of treatment at the two facilities.
At Victoria Hospital, family members of patients are advised to deposit an initial 10 million Shillings for care. This can increase or reduce depending on the time spent at the facility. Severe and critical patients spend an average of two million shillings daily.
According to doctors, patients with mild forms of COVID-19 spend a minimum of seven days in the hospital and those who have severe or critical forms of the disease requiring assistance in breathing might spend as many as 15 days or more in the hospital. the government, on the other hand, spends 22 million to treat each patient for 14-days.
The COVID-19 care package at Medipal International Hospital starts at 5 million Shillings, while Rocket Health, a bundled service for telemedicine healthcare services charges 300,000 for home-based care of the condition.
Private health care providers that URN spoke to said the money is needed to cater for several services offered. Perez Karuhaga, from Victoria Hospital, says that they ask people to deposit this lump sum of money to enable them to be in a comfortable financing position. The money is charged depending on the severity of the disease.
“The money caters for daily charges that go towards paying for the bed, daily consumables like doctor/nursing medical attention, and drugs. This includes drugs to cater for any comorbidities that the patient might have and COVID-19 care drugs,’ he said.
Sandra Arinaitwe, the public relations officer for Rocket Health, told URN that the fee they are charging cannot be compared to the services they are offering.
Dr Grace Ssali, the executive director of the Uganda Health Federation, says that it is hard for private health facilities to offer the services at lower prices. “The management of COVID-19 needs a lot. It is not like treating malaria. Here tests, PPE and other materials needed are procured by the hospitals. They are not getting any assistance from the government. It becomes hard to control the prices,” she said.
During an interview with a URN, Dr Charles Olaro, the director of curative services at the health ministry, said that they cannot force private hospitals to charge less money. He says while the government is working together with the private facilities to manage the disease, there’s nothing that the government can do to control how much private health facilities charge. He advises that the facilities be left for those who can afford them.
According to Olaro, for now, let every one seek care where they can afford. Initially, all COVID-19 patients were managed by the government. Private health facilities referred all positives to designated government facilities where patients did not pay money for any of the services provided.