KAMPALA: As the second wave of Covid-19 rages, hospitals have revealed that they are charging between Shs2m and Shs5m per day to treat a critically ill patient.
The patient spends 14 to 31 days in hospital depending on the severity of the disease, according to medical experts.
This means a critically ill patient spends between Shs62m and Shs155m.
These charges are largely unbearable to many Ugandans, given the per capita income of $777 (Shs2.7m).
The family of Dr Alex Mulindwa, a 33-year-old medical specialist, who died of Covid-19 last week in one of the private health facilities in Kampala, couldn’t afford the exorbitant charges in a private hospital , according to Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, a friend to the deceased.
Dr Muhereza, who is also the general secretary for Uganda Medical Association, said after Dr Mulindwa’s death, the facility [name withheld] decided to withhold the body because of the accrued bill.
“We retrieved the body yesterday [Sunday] after clearing the bill of Shs18 million and he was buried in Mubende District. He [the late] had spent six days in the hospital. The deceased was a young man who had just started working,” he said.
This means the facility was charging Shs3 million per day.
“The late [Dr Mulindwa] was airlifted by Uganda People’s Defence Forces chopper the previous week from Mbarara District and rushed to Mulago National Referral Hospital, but he failed to get space in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) because it was full,” he added.
The charges in private facilities contrast the Shs22m which the government said it is spending on a Covid-19 patient at a public hospital for the whole duration of treatment, upwards of two weeks. This is about Shs1m to Shs1.5m per day yet the survival chance for ICU patients in both private and public facilities are almost the same.
The experience of friends and family of the late Mulindwa adds to growing huddles Ugandans are facing in managing the high hospital bills for Covid-19 treatment in private facilities.
During a survey by this newspaper yesterday at Victoria Hospital in Bokoto, one of the major Covid-19 treatment centres, a health worker said one needs to deposit Shs10m to secure admission. The daily charges are up to Shs5m, according to the health worker.
The charges in other private facilities in Kampala ranged from Shs2m to Shs5m for critically ill patients.
A moderate case is being treated at around Shs1 million.
Mr Peter Mulindwa, the public relations officer for International Hospital Kampala, said their charges for Covid-19 treatment have remained the same as in the first wave. We also found out that the charges have largely not changed in other facilities.
“We charge around Shs1m for moderate cases of Covid-19 who are being treated here [at IHK] and for critically ill patients, the charge is around Shs2 million,” he said.
The charges vary depending on the amount of oxygen and type of treatment the patients receive and the money is used to pay medical workers and to purchase medicines, according to Mr Mulindwa.
Dr Richard Lukandwa, a consultant physician and acting medical director at Medipal International Hospital in Kampala, said the cost of medical care is driven by a patient’s need for oxygen and treatment for comorbidities that are aggravated by the viral disease.
The treatment of a Covid-19 patient at the Medipal ICU costs Shs4.3m per day. This covers attachment to the machine, PPEs, suction, physiotherapy, enteric feed and drugs. It does not, however, cover oxygen, Covid-19 drugs and investigations, according to Dr Lukandwa.
Dr Denis Kimalyo, the executive director of Uganda National Association of Private Hospitals, said the charges by some private facilities are high because of the loan they acquired to establish the ICU and pay specialists.
“Installation of ICUs have been costly and most facilities are rushing to recover the money. But also in the private sector where factors of supply and demand are at play, such [high] charges are expected,” Dr Kimalyo said.