Kampala — The Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has said the new charges imposed on patients seeking radiotherapy treatment are meant to make the unit self-sustaining.
Dr Jackson Orem, the UCI executive director, yesterday said the charges are in line with the government policy that requires all its agencies to devise ways of supplementing their small budgets.
"This Financial Year 2018/2019, UCI is expected to collect Shs1.6 billion from services the institute provides to the public and non-Ugandan patients," Dr Orem told journalists at Mulago Hospital.
Last Friday, this newspaper reported that UCI had started charging Shs300,000 from patients seeking radiotherapy treatment. The patients on private arrangement pay Shs500,000 while international patients are charged $2,000 (about Shs7.4m). A patient is also required to pay Shs10,000 for each of the X-ray and ultra sound scan services.
While many cancer patients have said the new charges are condemning them to death, Dr Orem said those terminally ill will be given free medication.
"Patients who cannot afford private and general services are treated at 100 per cent free of charge. These include very sick patients, emergency referrals, children and the destitute. There will be social workers to look after such people," he added.
The UCI executive director added that the charges will also contribute to transparency, which will enable the patients know their rights when it comes to payment and demanding better services.
"On some occasions, cancer patients have been making unofficial payments to some doctors. And yes, there have been no documents showing payments. If a doctor demands more money than these official charges that have been introduced, then know that is illegal. Patients should endeavour to demand their receipts," Dr Orem said.
In order to expand their services, he said UCI is to have two functional radiotherapy machines in place by next month and assemble a linear accelerator machine in March, which he said has been already been procured.
A linear accelerator is most commonly used for external beam radiation treatment for cancer patients. It delivers high-energy x-rays or electrons to the part of the body that is cancerous.
UCI gets 50,000 visits per year for both new and old patients, with international patients contributing 15 per cent, including refugees. According to the statistics available at UCI, in 2016, cancer cases were at 4,000 and 4,500 in 2017.