UGANDA—The Uganda Cancer Institute has rejected appeals from MPs to eliminate charges for patients using the private wing, citing the need for revenue to maintain equipment, given insufficient government funding.

This revelation was made by Dr. Jackson Orem, Executive Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, during a meeting with MPs on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee to scrutinize the December 2023 Auditor General’s report.

The report had raised concerns over low collections in Non-Tax Revenue (NTR), with the Institute having collected only Shs3.37 billion (US$887,552.52) out of a projected Shs4.5 billion (US$1.185 million).

Speaking before the Committee, Dr. Orem emphasized that all cancer patients receive equal treatment, noting that while a few patients prefer exclusive services, the only additional benefit they receive in the private wing is a more comfortable environment.

He added that even if the government provided the Shs4.5 billion (US$1.185 million), additional funding would still be needed as cancer treatment standards are uniform internationally, ensuring the same level of care for both wealthy and poor patients.

This response came after Muwanga Kivumbi of Butambala County questioned the necessity of the private wing, suggesting that if the projected revenue were included in the government budget, it might allow the Institute to offer free services to all Ugandans.

For his part, Nixon Niyonzima, Head of Research and Training at the Uganda Cancer Institute, attributed the low revenue collections in 2022/23 to a decrease in the number of patients using private services.

He assured MPs that revenue would increase in the coming years following the procurement of new radiotherapy machines for the private wing.

The Uganda Cancer Institute provides several private wing services, including admission fees of Shs100,000 (US$26.34) per night, consultation fees of Shs50,000 (US$13.17), free drugs, laboratory blood tests at Shs10,000 (US$2.63), ultrasound at Shs10,000 (US$2.63), X-ray at Shs30,000 (US$7.90), and CT scans ranging from Shs200,000 (US$52.67) to Shs300,000 (US$79.01) depending on the organ examined.

Radiotherapy services are also available, with advanced techniques costing Shs1.4 million (US$368.72) for approximately six weeks of treatment.

Niyonzima defended the NTR collections, emphasizing the need for greater government support to address funding gaps, as part of the NTR is used to maintain equipment.

Dr. Orem concluded by informing MPs that the Institute’s mandate has expanded to lead cancer research and treatment in East Africa.

However, this mandate is undermined by a lack of funding, which hampers the Institute’s ability to conduct research and investigations, causing some patients to seek treatment abroad.

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