Foreigners should pay for services at Cancer Institute

Provision of free treatment to foreigners at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has caused concern among Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee (Central Government).

Foreigners should pay for services at Cancer Institute
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Provision of free treatment to foreigners at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) has caused concern among Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee (Central Government).

Appearing before the committee chaired by Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi on Tuesday, 14 May 2024, the Executive Director, Dr Jackson Orem informed the committee that the institute provides free treatment to Ugandans and foreigners who make up 20 per cent of the clientele.

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However, this statement faced scrutiny as MPs questioned the basis for offering free medical treatment to foreigners.

Amuria District Woman Representative, Hon. Suzan Amero argued that foreigners do not contribute taxes to Uganda and therefore, should not be exempt from medical fees.

Dr Orem clarified that the 20 per cent of foreigners receiving free treatment are primarily East Africans for whom there is no established framework for charging medical fees.

Hon. Amero highlighted the discrepancy, noting that Ugandans do not receive free medical care even within East Africa. She cited an instance where Members of Parliament attending the East African Community games in Arusha had to rely on insurance or cash payments for medical services.

“Why do you give them free treatment because that money should be the non-tax revenue that should be spent on other things to look after Ugandans, after all the facility is here and managed by Ugandans. Why should it be free for everybody?” she said.

She said if the institute wants to provide a subsidy for East Africans, it should be done.

Muwanga Kivumbi indicated that they would recommend to the House that free treatment for foreigners be discontinued and replaced with a fee-based system.

The cancer institute registers 7400 new patients every year. The Outpatient Department registers 250-300 people daily. Uganda as a country register’s 3500 new cancer patients yearly.

The committee also queried what was termed as dubious spending of Shs5 billion by the entity.

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Hon. Xavier Kyooma (NRM, Ibanda County North) said the entity went ahead to spend money without costing. He said that the spending is doubtable since the accounting officer cannot defend the lack of costing.

“The fact that the activities did not have costs attached; how would you go ahead and spend? Because you would spend on an activity basing on the earmarked money,” Kyooma questioned.

Hon. Gorreth Namugga (NUP, Mawogola County South) equally queried the spending of the Shs5 billion stating that the entity has remained silent on what exactly the money was used for.

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