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Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) MUST act on Patient Detentions by Hospitals


WE are Uganda National Health Consumer’s Organisation (UNHCO) and champion promotion and defense of patients’ rights in Uganda. THIS petition is to condemn the rampant patient detentions obtaining at St. Francis Nsambya Hospital that is a microcosm of several health facilities that for a long time have gone without condemnation.

WE are bothered by impunity at the rampant patient detentions by Hospitals in Uganda. As such we call upon Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Health and Parliamentary Health/Human Rights commission to:

       i.            Condemn patient detentions of whichever form;

     ii.            Issue stern warnings compelling to stop Health facilities and the would be patient detention perpetrators,

  iii.            Institute a Hospital’s visitation committee to verify the patient detention claims;

    iv.            That Nsambya St. Francis Hospital releases forthwith all detained patients that it has who are no longer receiving treatment;

      v.            Uganda Human Rights commission tries all health facilities found in violations of patient rights against detention;

    vi.            Parliament of Uganda fast-tracks enactment of patients’ rights and responsibilities Bill as an accountability Bill for the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme which shall go a long way in protecting patients against detention and Health services providers are promptly paid.

Hospital detention practices are defined as refusing to release of either living patients after medical discharge is clinically indicated or refusing release of bodies of deceased patients if families are unable to pay their hospital bills.[1]

It is our strongest conviction that hospitals have a right to demand payments for services rendered to patients. We also commit to encouraging patients to meet their fair share on medical fares but we condemn are require or government authorities to join in and state that holding the patient is not one of the avenues hospitals should use to recover the debt, as it amounts to denial of freedom of movement to which hospitals should be punished for.

We opine that Cases of patients failing to pay for medical services rendered can be pursued through other debt recovery mechanisms like filing a civil suit. Detaining a person in a hospital is a classic example of a scenario, where two wrongs don’t make a right.

Medical fees in private coupled with incidences of extortion in public health facilities make seeking health care and good extremely expensive and out of reach of the common man[woman]. That could explain why they resort to healthcare from public hospitals or delay to seek healthcare at all, which many Ugandans still can’t afford.

At the root of this problem is the persistence of health financing systems that require people to make high out-of-pocket payments when they need healthcare, and inadequate governance systems that allow facilities to detain patients

Patient detention deters healthcare use, increases medical impoverishment, and is a denial of international human rights standards, including the right not to be imprisoned as a debtor and the right to access medical care.

The continuous detention of patients is evidence that authorities have not stepped up to their duty for condemning it

Detention of patients in hospital for lack of payment of hospital bills violates international human rights, including the right not to be imprisoned as debtors and the right to have medical care access

Hospital detention practices indeed reflect mismanagement, corruption, dysfunctional health-care system structures, inadequate health-insurance coverage and unfair waiver procedures warranting urgent attention

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[1] Human Rights Watch and The Association for the Promotion of Human Rights and Detained Persons. A high price to pay: detention of poor patients in Burundian hospitals. 2006. http://hrw.org/ reports/2006/burundi0906acessed13/8/19

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