KAMPALA, Uganda 

Uganda’s High Court ordered the government Thursday to regulate the fees charged by private health facilities for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Following a second wave of COVID-19, several private health facilities have been accused of profiteering from the pandemic, charging steep medical fees.

Some hospital bills shared by families of COVID-19 patients emerging from intensive care show sums of up to $15,000, a small fortune in a country where the annual per capital income is $777.

Some private health facilities are even refusing to release the corpses of patients who succumbed to the virus until the medical bills left behind are cleared, while others are demanding collateral for security such as car log books and land titles before treating COVID-19 patients.

The Centre for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), a civil society organization, dragged the Ugandan government to the country’s high court for failure to regulate the exorbitant fees.

The government through its chief legal adviser, the attorney general, conceded to a case, which accuses the government of being reluctant in regulating COVID-19 treatment fees, which motivated many hospitals to charge exorbitant fees for COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

He agreed with CEHURD that the government has to intervene and regulate fees for both treatment and management of the virus.

The consent order signed before Justice Phillip Odoki compels the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Association to advise the health minister on what would be reasonable chargeable fees.

“By consent, this application is therefore determined on the following terms: an order is hereby issued against the respondents to intervene by making regulations on fees chargeable by hospitals on management and treatment of persons suffering from COVID-19,” Odoki ruled.

Uganda is among African countries seeing a dramatic rise in the number of infections amid a severe vaccine shortage. Less than 1% of the population is fully vaccinated. The country has 85,581 confirmed cases and 2,033 deaths.

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