Committee Urges Ministry Clarification on CT-Scan Fees Discrepancy

The Committee on Government Assurances and Implementation has directed the Ministry of Health to harmonize its position on the user fees charged for Computed Tomography (CT) scan services in government hospitals.

During their oversight visit to assess the levels of implementation of government assurances in the health sector in the Eastern region, the MPs observed a contradiction in the Ministry of Health’s position regarding CT-scan user fees.

At Mbale Regional Referral Hospital on Friday, 27 October 2023, the hospital director, Stephen Obbo, informed the MPs that they charge Shs150,000 for CT-scan services, a fee used to procure consumables, do repairs, and maintenance works on the equipment for its sustainability.

The MPs pointed out that this charge contradicted the declaration made by the Minister of State for Health (General Duties), Hon Anifa Kawooya, who stated that CT-scan services are free. “Last week, the minister met with this committee and stated that CT-scan services are free of charge. Ugandans pay taxes for such services, and just like ferries on water bodies, such services should be free. Parliament can allocate funds to maintain such equipment,” Committee Chairperson, Hon. Betty Nambooze, said.

To the MPs’ surprise, the hospital director presented a letter from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, dated 02 June 2023, directing hospitals to charge some amount of money for CT-scan services against the minister’s pronouncement. “The purpose of this committee is to fight political deception. A minister cannot tell Parliament that the service is free of charge, walk out, and then enforce the directive of the Permanent Secretary. The Ministry should revise its position and harmonize,” Nambooze emphasized.

Hon. Robert Ssekitoleeko (NUP, Bamunanika County) highlighted that the ministry has failed to establish a standard user fee for CT-scan services in all government hospitals, leading to potential abuse. “There is no consistency in the charges for CT-scan services. In Jinja, they are charging Shs120,000, and here [Mbale] it is Shs150,000. It seems the more hospitals we visit, the deeper the variances in prices,” he expressed.

Nambooze added that Mukono charges Shs50,000 for CT-scan services, while the same services are free in Mbarara.

Due to the lack of a clear policy instrument, both Hon. Julius Emigu (FDC, Ochero County) and Hon. Connie Galiwango (Indep., Mbale City) expressed concerns that CT-scan services might shut down if the ministry does not harmonize its position on the fees.

The MPs pledged to raise the issue in Parliament next week as a matter of national importance.