PARLIAMENT | A decision by Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) to slap medical charges on radiotherapy treatment is proving too hard to bear, with public outcry reaching the Floor of Parliament on Thursday.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has tasked the Ministry of Health to explain the decision to start charging cancer patients seeking radiotherapy treatment at UCI, a public facility at National Referral Hospital, Mulago.
Radiotherapy treatment has been free of charge at UCI over the past several years, but the Board of Directors of UCI has directed that Shs300,000 be charged for the same.
On Thursday, MP Julius Ochen (Kapelebyong County) questioned the motive behind the new charge during plenary sitting. The legislator called for the fee to be suspended until a proper policy is in place to accommodate the most vulnerable.
Ochen’s suggestions was welcomed by many legislators who agreed that a review was necessary in lieu of the fact that most people who seek cancer treatment at UCI are the vulnerable who cannot afford the exorbitant costs of cancer treatment.
But not every human is humane, after all. It didn’t take long for Parliament to witness this as David Bahati, the state minister for planning, shot up in protesting, accusing his colleagues of relying on information obtained from newspapers.
Of course, this is not to suggest that Bahati is removed from reality on the ground. The struggles of Ugandans with cancer is well documented and Bahati, certainly, is very much aware of the painful tales around UCI.
Yet the minister had chosen to draw what appeared to be an inconsiderate political line in his statement, leaving his colleagues in the House baffled. And angry, too.
Francis Mwijukye (Buhweju County) pointed out that his own father was camped at the cancer institute where he is paying money every day to access treatment.
“People are dying at Mulago, yet here is a minister saying that a member is telling lies yet it is true that people are paying money,” Mwijukye said.
Speaker Kadaga told off Bahati, reminding the minister that having newspapers as the source of information isn’t the issue.
“What we should be doing is find out is it true, the sources. Is the service free?” Kadaga asked.
Bahati, who was stepping in for Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa said the Ministry of Health would make a statementt regarding the on Tuesday.
According to an October 30 memo from Uganda Cancer Institute, private patients will part with Shs500,000 while international patients will be charged USD2,000 (about Shs7.5 million) for radiotherapy treatment.