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Uganda Cancer Institute Rejects Appeals To Fully Offer Free Services To Patients In Private Wing

Officials from Uganda Cancer Institute led by Dr Orem (Left)

Uganda Cancer Institute has rejected appeals by MPs to end charges on patients seeking for services on the private wing, saying the revenue collected from such patients is used for maintenance of equipment since the money provided by Government for this item isn’t enough.

The Institute’s position was made by Dr. Jackson Orem, Executive Director, Uganda Cancer Institute while meetings with MPs on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to scrutinize the December 2023 Auditor General’s report that had queried the low collections in Non-Tax Revenue (NTR), with the Institute having only collected Shs3.37Bn out of the projected revenue of Shs4.5Bn.

Dr. Orem explained, “All cancer patients are equal and despite the fact that we have a few people who want exclusive services, even those ones we subsidize them, so the only thing they are getting in private wing apart from a few investigations, it is the space that has ambiance. Even if Government gives us that Shs4.5Bn, there is still going to be need because cancer treatment is uniform internationally so that means, even if you are a rich or poor person, the standard of treatment that you are getting is the same. So even if you gave us that Shs4.5Bn, it is still not going to make a very big difference.”

His remarks were in response to a question raised by Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala County) who wondered why Uganda Cancer Institute continues to operate a private wing, yet only Shs4.5Bn is collected in revenue, wondering if these funds when availed in the Institute’s budget by Government, will enable the facility offer free services to all Ugandans.

Muwanga remarked, “You generate Shs4.5Bn and your budget is Shs48Bn and the services offered are a public good because my understanding is that the poor are subsidizing for the rich who go in the private wing because for the Shs48Bn, it is collected from all of us, from the consolidated fund and we can’t access it. So, my ka small money, goes to finance the rich man and I can’t access, so, is it comfortable for you if we added the Shs4.5Bn on your budget and you say, we no longer charge anything?”

Nixon Niyonzima, Head of Research and Training at the Uganda Cancer Institute attributed the low revenue collections in 2022/23 on the reduction in the number of patients attending private services but assured MPs that the revenues will be increasing in the coming years after the Institute procured new radiotherapy machines that will be utilized by patients in the private wing.

He explained, “During the financial year under audit, we experienced reduction in the number of patients attending private services but we had also projected that we would have increased utilization of equipment among private patients, but most patients opted for waivers, many of them couldn’t afford the cost of the services. However, we have increased the number of equipment we have for example, radio therapy, we have installed four new radiotherapy machines and we expect that with the increase of these number of machines, we expect that the NTR collections will increase in the coming financial years.”

According to Uganda Cancer Institute, there are several private wing services offered which include; Admission fees where Shs100,000is charged per night, consultation fees-Shs50,000, drugs are free, laboratory blood-Shs10,000, ultrasound-Shs10,000, X-ray-Shs30,000, CTScan-Shs200,000 to Shs300,000 and this is charged depending on the organ the patient wants.

Niyonzima also said the Institute charges for Radiotherapy services and in case the patient is doing one of the advanced techniques, the charge is Shs1.4M for entire radiotherapy those are about 6weeks of radiotherapy and went on to defend the NTR collections arguing, “We actually need more support from Government, we still have many gaps that are unfunded. Part of the reason we collect NTR is to ensure that our equipment is maintained, we have a very small budget for maintenance of equipment and most of the money we get from NTR is for maintenance of equipment.”

The Uganda Institute boss, Dr.Orem also informed MPs that the Institute’s mandate has been further expanded to lead research and treatment of cancer in East Africa, but that mandate is being undermined by lack of financing to boost the Institute’s capabilities in conducting research and investigations, which has prompted some patients to seek for services outside the country.

“We have also been given the mandate as the East African Centre of Excellence for cancer management, that means that we are actually setting the standard for the entire East Africa. Our biggest plea is improvement in investigating capacity which is currently taking most of our people outside the country and a key example is the need for the PEP centre in the country, we don’t have one and it is taking a lot of our people outside for investigation. We have everything, only thing lacking is actually financing. I want you to add your voice to this cause so that we also have these investigations and we stop hemorrhage of resources going outside of the country,” said Orem.

 

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