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Man sues Uganda Health Minister over high hospital bill

Friday, July 09, 2021

Kampala. A Ugandan man has sued the government and Health minister Jane Ruth Aceng after he was left with a high hospital bill when his mother died from Covid-19 complications.

According to the suit before the Lira High Court, Mr Toffa Tamale says his mother, Tereza Namugenyi, was admitted to Paramount Hospital in Kampala after she suffered a heart attack.

“We were later told by the medical personnel that my mother was also suffering from Covid-19 and for that reason, she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit,” he states in his affidavit.

“My mother was later on discontinued from oxygen in favour of an Asian patient who, according to the doctors, was more critically ill than her. After three days off oxygen, my mother’s condition worsened and she eventually died.”

Mr Toffa says the hospital’s management demanded Ush31 million (about Ksh944,000) before his mother’s body could be released for burial.

“This amount was exorbitant and excessively high and as a family, we could not afford it. Bearing in mind the circumstances under which my mother died, it was not only unfair but also unreasonable for the hospital to demand such an exorbitant amount,” he states in court documents.

“Despite various demands to the management of Paramount Hospital, they deliberately refused to release my late mother’s body. Instead, they used it as bait to compel us to pay the excessive hospital bill,” he adds.

Mr Tamale now wants the court to declare that Ms Aceng and the Ugandan government have failed to standardise levies, rates and pricing of medical services provided by health facilities, arguing that this threatens and violates patients’ rights. He also wants the court to issue an order compelling the State to formulate and introduce fair and affordable payment ceilings for medical services provided by private health facilities, and that the same be published in places accessible to the general public.

The petitioner, who has listed the Attorney General as a respondent, also wants the government to restrain private hospitals from holding dead bodies over unpaid bills.

Case forwarded

However, the Lira High Court in northern Uganda has forwarded the case file to a Kampala court.

“The above case was registered at Lira High Court yesterday (Wednesday), however, the resident judge has directed me to transfer it to your office for onward transmission to High Court Civil Division as per the directive of the Principal Judge for quick management,” Ms Jeneva Natukunda, the deputy registrar at Lira High Court, said in a letter to her counterpart at the High Court in Kampala.

Report by Anthony Wesaka (Nation Media Group)


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