The Committee on Government Assurances and Implementation has directed the Ministry of Health to harmonise its position on the user fees charged for the Computed Tomography (CT) scan services in government hospitals.
During their oversight visit to assess the levels of implementation of government assurances in the health sector in Eastern region, the MPs observed a contradiction on the Ministry of Health position regarding CT-scan user fees.
At Mbale Regional Referral Hospital on Friday, 27 October 2023, the hospital director, Stephen Obbo told MPs that they charge Shs150,000 for CT-scan services, a fee that is used to procure consumables, do repairs and maintenance works on the equipment for its sustainability.
The MPs said the charge is against the Minister of State for Health (General Duties), Hon Anifa Kawooya’s declaration that CT-scan services are free.
“Last week, the minister met this committee and told us that CT-scan services are free of charge. Ugandans pay taxes for such services and just like ferries on water bodies, such services should be free. Parliament can allocate funds to maintain such equipment,” Committee Chairperson, Hon. Betty Nambooze said.
To the MPs’ shock, the hospital director flaunted a letter from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health dated 02 June 2023 directing hospitals to charge some amount of money for CT-scan services against the minister’s pronouncement.
“The purpose of this committee is to fight political deception. A minister cannot tell Parliament that the service is free of charge; walks out and then enforces directive of the Permanent Secretary. The Ministry should revise its position and harmonise,” Nambooze said.
Hon. Robert Ssekitoleeko (NUP, Bamunanika County) said the ministry has failed to set a standard user fee for CT-scan services for all government hospitals, saying it is creating room for abuse.
“There is no consistency on the charges for CT scan services. In Jinja, they are charging Shs120,000, now here [Mbale] it is Shs150,000. It seems the more hospitals we visit, the deeper the variances in prices,” he said.
Nambooze supplemented that Mukono charges Shs50,000 for CT-scan services, while the same services are free in Mbarara.
As a result of lack of a clear policy instrument, both Hon. Julius Emigu (FDC, Ochero County) and Hon. Connie Galiwango (Indep., Mbale City) are worried that CT-scan services may shut down if the ministry does not harmonise its position on the fees.
The MPs pledged to raise the issue in Parliament next week as a matter of national importance.