Uganda: Health Workers Accused of Extortion

21 November 2019

Health workers attached to different health centres in Pallisa District have been accused of extorting money from patients before attending to them contrary to the government policy.

A report conducted by Pallisa Town Council citizens Community Scorecard this month under the theme "Citizens Action for improved accountability and public service delivery project [CAIPS]" indicates that health workers at Pallisa hospital and other health centres are fond of demanding money from patients.

The report says expectant mothers are charged between Shs300,000 and Shs400,000 for caesarean section and they are asked to pay Shs50,000 or more if they deliver normally.

Other illegal charges at the facilities include money for airtime, laboratory fees, gloves, and fuelling an ambulance in case of referrals, among others.

The report was presented during the Civil Society Organisation [CSO] advocacy workshop organised by Action Aid-Uganda at Oasis Hotel, Pallisa Town, on Tuesday.

Mr Isaac Okalebo, one of the researchers and founder of Pallisa Human Rights Initiative, said apart from extortion, the report also found out that health workers report late at work and leave early.

He added that Out Patient Department at Pallisa hospital is usually out of operation at night.

"The patients are instead often referred to buy drugs from private clinics," he said.

Mr Okalebo said citizens should be sensitised to demand for services and report cases of corruption.

"The citizens should be empowered to demand for accountability because it's their right," he said.

Daily Monitor talked to some patients who confirmed paying money for health services.

District officials speak

The Pallisa District chairperson, Mr John Michael Okurut, said such vices remain a big challenge in the health sector.

"The district leadership is ready to investigate such allegations but unfortunately, no body is willing to give us the right information to pin wrong elements," he said.

The district health officer, Dr Godfrey Mulekwa, said the hospital management has on several occasions warned health workers against extorting money from patients.

"This will not be accepted at all because such isolated cases continue to spoil the image of the hospital," he said.

He added that issues raised will be investigated but whoever will be implicated shall face disciplinary action.

Cases of Extortion

In September 2017, the State Minister for Health, Dr Sarah Opendi, disguised herself and travelled by a boda boda to Naguru hospital in Kampala. The minister then asked for routine laboratory tests. They should have been given to her free of charge but instead the health workers asked for a bribe.

In August, the Rwenzori West regional police spokesperson, Ms Lydia Tumushabe said they had arrested a health worker attached to Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital for allegedly soliciting Shs100,000 bribe from an expectant mother.

In yesterday's Daily Monitor story entitled "Inside story of Jinja hospital baby tragedy", a report accused medical doctors in Jinja Regional Referral Hospital of extorting money from patients.

The report noted that a patient paid Shs100,000 for an operation but had also paid Shs150,000 to another doctor in the previous visit to the facility.

Some interns in the facility confessed to receiving the money as appreciation for their work but the money was allegedly returned when things went bad.

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