Uganda: Patient's Rights Law Is Not Necessary - Dr Aceng

5 December 2019

The Health Minister, Dr Ruth Jane Aceng has said that a law on patients' rights and responsibilities is unnecessary as it will make the health workers not work freely. Dr Aceng said that there is no health worker who wants to face litigation all the time while working.

"The private member has been advised by us and Ministry of Finance that it is not necessary to table patient's rights bill. When you start creating patient's rights by law, you will make the health workers not work. No health work who is offering services selflessly would like to face litigation all the time. Creating patient's rights by law is detrimental to the health services," she said on Tuesday during the 6th National Healthcare Quality Improvement Conference in Kampala.

Dr Aceng added: "We already have a guide in place so we do not need a law. If you create patient's rights by law then the health workers will also create their rights by law and then we shall be in aping pong game. No health services will be delivered, it is not a good practice to create patient's rights by law."

The proposed Patient's Rights and Responsibilities Bill seeks to empower health consumers to; demand high quality healthcare, promote the rights of patients, improve the quality of life of all Ugandans in line with "inherent dignity" and the equal and unalienable rights of all members of the human family.

Under the proposed bill, patients and doctors share the decision-making responsibility.

Dr Aceng said sometimes patient's assault health workers yet they have a right to be respected too. She refused to launch the Patient's Rights and responsibilities Charter 2019 saying that it should be launched together with the health workers rights charter.

"Sometimes we have experienced challenges in our health facilities where patients have actually assaulted health workers and so the reason why I didn't launch the patients' rights charter is because best practice detects the patients' rights and the health workers rights go together," Dr Aceng said.

Dr Joseph Okware the director of governance and regulation decried the growing practice of detaining patients over fees by some health facilities.

"Those that insist on the practice risk losing their operational licences. Patient's rights bill actually contains the same things that are in the charter, so we are not going to wait for the bill, we have to improvise whether we need the bill or not will depend on the will of Ugandans," he said.

The patient's Rights Charter states that the patient may not be detained at the health facility because of procedural reasons or pay disputes.

The Health Ministry has urged patients to always choose government health facilities which offer free services instead of opting for private ones which charge exorbitant fees.

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