By Max Patrico Ocaido
Parliament has given a green light to the proposed Patient’s Rights and Responsibilities Bill, 2017 amidst objection from government.
During the Wednesday sitting chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, MPs granted leave to Paul Akamba, Busiki County MP to bring a private member’s Bill (Patient’s Right Bill) that seeks to place patients at the centre of health care by empowering patients to participate in the process of seeking or receiving health care. The proposed Bill also requires a patient to be treated with respect and dignity.
Akamba said that the Bill will expose the hidden conduits behind violation of patients’ rights and challenge the conditions that create patients’ rights violation that have for long gone unpunished.
“It is just and equitable therefore that this law seeking to empower all of us who are patients and patients in waiting, is fast-tracked and enacted. I call upon colleagues to support this motion for it concerns us all and all Ugandans,” Akamba said.
Akamba recognizes that although the Uganda Patient’s Charter of 2009 empowers patients to demand quality care, inequitable access and abuse remain the order of the day considering that the law is not enforced.
“As we prepare to appropriate the national budget to the health sector, this law can be used as an accountability tool where patients can demand for better health services,” he added.
The MP said that there has been a legislative gap that has denied citizens access to timely care that is affordable as well was barring citizens from benefiting from government programs like immunization, vaccination or delivering from hospitals.
Government Objects the Motion
Before Deputy Speaker Oulanyah granted the member leave, state minister for Health (General Duties) Sarah Opendi said that government is not comfortable with the motion saying the Bill will have serious financial implications and above all Uganda enacted the Clients’ Charter which is sufficient.
“When you move with this motion the way it is, then we will have to bring another Bill-Health Workers Rights Bill. So, it is going to create some bit of a problem within the sector. Let’s understand that we have the client’s charter that is quite sufficient and various regional referral hospitals and health facilities actually have different client’s charters that they have been developing and the ministry has been approving,” Opendi said.
“So, we are really uncomfortable with this motion,” she added.
David Bahati, State Minister of Finance for Planning asked the member (Akamba) to work closely with the ministry of Health when the latter is developing the Bill on the health sector to avoid an extended charge on the consolidated fund.
In his ruling, Oulanyah saved the motion saying that the only issue that would shoot down the proposed Bill is if it violates provisions of the Constitution and that from the statement of the minister the proposed Bill doesn’t do that.
Akamba is now expected to return with the proposed Bill for debate before it will be sent to a committee for scrutiny.
Moses Talibita, legal officer for Uganda National Health Users Consumers Organization and health rights activists asked MPs and public to support the Bill that intends to recognize client’s rights that include right to quality services, information, confidentiality, timely intervention, privacy and safe environment.