By Felix Okello
West Nile- When Manuela Akumu’s son fell sick, she had to sell some household items in order to meet the costs of paying hospital bill.
Her son, Mark Otimkissa, was vomiting greenish substance, and had a severe headache. She thought her son was poisoned. But when she rushed her son to Holy Family Nyapea Hospital in Zombo district, she had fear that she would be charged highly if the sickness required operation.
To her surprise, Akumu, had to pay Shillings 55,000 for operation that was done three times on her child. “I was scared that I would pay even Shillings 150,000 or more after I was told that my child needed operation. But thank God I was told there is Belgium government helping to pay out some costs,” she said.
Akumu, said she had spent five days at Nyapea hospital now and she would not pay anymore bill. As a result of poverty, some of the patients have opted for witchdoctors as they could not afford the exorbitant medical bills.
Akumu with her son on the right. All Photos by Felix Okello
Uganda does not have a clear health insurance policy but it is only those working in private companies that are privileged to have health insurance.
But According to Dr Jammy Omara, the child had intestinal complications. “It is true patients were scared of coming to the health facility but when we worked on this child, the mother was relieved that she would only pay Shillings 55,000 because the Belgian Technical Corporation pays part of the bills for every patient. For instance, we now charge patients in OPD Shillings 5000. And this has become affordable for rural poor,” he said.
Belgian Technical Corporation (BTC) and Uganda government recently partnered with the government of Uganda to fund 13 health centers founded under various faiths across the eight districts in West Nile.
The support, Result Based Financing, according to National Technical Assistant (BTC) for West Nile, Mwaka Agoba, is an incentive for the health centers to purchase equipment and for staff to ensure good service delivery for patients.
“We are giving the centers this money for health service delivery and we shall ensure there is strict accountability of the money. We want the patients to get the descent service so that we prevent diseases and staff to work hard,” Mwaka said on Thursday.
Mwaka speaking to staff of Erussi health center IV on how they can improve service delivery to patients.
At Kuluva hospital in Arua, where had a Caesarean section, Kevin Agondua, said: “By the time we arrived, the Nurses received us, prepared, and taken to the theater and I was worried of the costs and I am wondering if a poor person can pay the initial Shillings 170,000 but now it is Shillings 120,000 which I think is fair.”
She said when there is affordable health care service; the health of the poor would also be improved. At the supported health centers, children below five years seeking for health care are at Shillings 4000.
Kevin Agondua who delivered through caesarean at Kuluva after being referred from Arua regional referral hospital.
The Hospital Administrator for Kuluva hospital, Jimmy Ondoma, said: “Patients who had fears that we charge highly have been coming to us now because we have reduced rates. And we ensure quality service delivery so that we qualify for the funds, which have enabled us to purchase more drugs and give bonus to motivate the staff.”
The hospital and health centers under the funding scheme now charge flat rate of Shillings 6,000 for any type of sickness and mothers on Caesarean section are charged Shillings 120,000 a reduction from Shillings 150,000 in the past.
The District Health Officer for Yumbe district, Dr Alfred Yayi, said there was need to ensure continuity of the project. “Although this is a good project that has enabled staff motivation, increase in health care attendance and improved service delivery, we need continuity of it so that health service becomes affordable,” he said.
Health Center III-Shillings 80 million
Health Center IV-Shillings 160 million
Hospitals-Shillings 320 million