Lira Resident Judge has ordered for the transfer of the file for a public interest case against the Government of Uganda, which was early this week filed at Lira High Court, to the Kampala Civil Division of the High Court for quick handling.
This case was filed by Health Equity and Policy Initiative (HEAPI) a local NGO, against government and Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng, accusing them of failure to regulate private health facilities who are overcharging patients on covid19 treatment.
“The above case was registered at Lira High Court yesterday. However, the Resident Judge has directed me to transfer it to your office for onward transmission to High Court Civil Division as per the directive of the Principal Judge for quick management,” wrote Lira Deputy Registrar Natukunda Geneva.
As one of the means of preventing the spread of covid19 in the country, the Chief Justice suspended hearing of cases in all courts, apart from matters of urgency.
In their main suit filed on 29th June 2021, HEAPI says that it asked for Government intervention to prevent excessive billing by private health facilities to patients suffering from covid19 but this was ignored since none of their letters received a response.
“On 24th October 2019, way before COVID, Health Equity and Policy Initiative (HEAPI) wrote to the Minister expressing concerns about exorbitant medical billing of patients, unreasonable advance payments for medical services, and detaining patients and dead bodies over pending medical bills.”
“Later, HEAPI wrote another letter to the Prime minister requesting for tax waivers on medical goods to enable access affordable COVID treatment.”
In this suit, the NGO wants court to declare that Government’s failure and omission to standardize rates, and pricing of medical services provided by private health facilities threatens and violates the patients right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which is against numerous provisions of the Constitution.
They also prayed to court to issue an order compelling Government to issue regulations that shall restrain all private hospitals from detaining patients and holding bodies of deceased persons for pecuniary reasons.
The court was also asked to provide penalties for exorbitant pricing of life saving medical goods and services and provide emergency care protocols for the immediate admission and treatment of critically ill patients in private health facilities without subjecting them to conditional payments.