Ministry of Health and Mulago hospital management has distanced itself from charges levied by the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) on patients seeking treatment at the facility.
Patients are now asked to pay between Shs 50,000-300,000 for radiotherapy treatment. Prossy Namagembe one of the patients, says that she was told to pay Shs 130,000 for scan and consultation fees at Mulago hospital and at the Uganda Cancer Institute.
The executive director Uganda Cancer Institute, Dr Jackson Orem says that the fees being charged are part of a pilot study to determine how much money the institute can charge patients in a bid to raise revenue for operations of the institute.
"We’re supposed to generate some revenue from source and spend at source. We have been working on how best we can collect that monthly revenue so we can know how much revenue is generated from the institute." said Orem.
He however added that patients who cannot afford to pay for the services will be treated at a free cost.
"Patients who cannot afford to pay for the services should inform us and they will receive treatment free of any charges," Orem says.
Orem says that the institute is also yet to determine how much patients should pay and what the institute will use the funds for. The Cancer Institute is one of several medical facilities that receive funding from the Ministry of Health. In the next financial year, the institute was allocated Shs 91 billion.
Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent secretary ministry of Health, says that the ministry is not aware that the institute charges patients for services.
"We really need to hear from them. We have never authorised charging. So if they are doing it, they are doing it on their own." she said
Dr Baterana Byarugaba, executive director Mulago hospital, says that it is illegal for health workers to solicit money from patients seeking health services.
"Those people paying at Mulago and other regional referral hospitals and other government health facilities that is not in the private wing. Those payments are done by errant health workers. These are really thieves Some of them are masqueraders and may not be health workers in that health facility but we want people to help us catch these thieves so that we eliminate them from our health facilities. Those are thieves, catch them." said Byarugaba.
It is estimated that there are over 400,000 people receiving cancer treatment at UCI from Uganda and neighbouring countries. The most common cancers in Uganda are; cervical, prostate, breast, Kaposi sarcoma, Burkitt lymphoma, lung, skin, bone, cancer of the eye, colon, and blood.