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Pharmacists Call For Inclusion In National Health Insurance Bill

The Pharmaceutical sector has called for inclusion of their services in the National Insurance Scheme Bill, 2019.

 Dr. John Kilimi (pictured in blue jacket), a representative from the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda argued that inclusion of pharmaceutical services in the Bill will safeguard against drug shortages, drug expiries, drug wastage, mitigation of anti-microbial resistance and ensure adherence to treatment.

“It is estimated that 60 per cent of the health care budget consists of medicines and health supplies. To ensure optimal and rational use of these products, pharmaceutical services are required,” he said.

 Kilimi who led a team from the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda was presenting the society’s views on the Bill before the Committee on Health on 06 February 2020.

Kilimi said that including pharmaceutical services in the Bill will address the challenge of quack pharmacists who he said are on the increase.

“We have proposed to have a standard to accredit service providers. In that standard, we have a list to check before the service provider is approved,” he said.

Kilimi also proposed that the Board of Directors established by the Bill should include a representative from the pharmaceutical sector saying that the current composition of the Board is not representative.

He also proposed that the scheme should include private and community health insurance providers, arguing that leaving them out results into duplication of regulations and risks creation of double standards which may compromise health service delivery.

“We propose that all health care insurance schemes should be regulated by the National Health Insurance Scheme,” Kilimi added. The pharmacists also proposed that the scheme should include increased access to advanced diagnostic techniques such as computerized tomography(CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging(MRI) and expand the list of medicines beyond the essential medicine list.

“The services and provision in the bill relate to what is already being provided and therefore, creates an impression of the scheme that the only change is the source of funding from government to beneficiaries,” said Kilimi.

According to Kilimi, the proposals made by the pharmaceutical society will make the scheme a success as it has worked in Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria. The Committee Chairperson, Hon. Michael Bukenya however, said that including the pharmaceutical sector might create confusion amongst the rural population who do not know the clear role of pharmacists.

“In Uganda, there is no clear separation between pharmacists and medical doctors and Ugandans do not understand the difference between the two professions,” he said.

Hon. Sam Lyomoki (NRM, Workers) said that considering pharmaceutical services in the Bill is sensitive as it may lead to other professional like nurses, dentists and opticians to also seek inclusion in the scheme.

“I advise you to do more research on how your interests can be catered for without us attracting other professionals in the health sector seeking inclusion,” he said.

The National Health Insurance Scheme, 2019 will require all Ugandans above 18 years to contribute to the scheme before accessing health services across the country. Government hospitals and accredited private health providers that meet the set standards shall offer the services to patients.

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