The Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau is struggling to keep the cost of care low.
Speaking at the Annual Health Assembly to evaluate the performance of their 33 hospitals and 264 lower health facilities, Dr. Samuel Orochi Orach, the Executive Secretary said they have in the previous two years experienced a decline in patient numbers which has affected the user fees that they collect.
Orach says that the user fees contribute 62% of recurrent costs of running lower-level health facilities.
Calling for more financial contribution from both government and donors, Orach said while they run 25% of all the Private Not for Profit hospitals across the country, they are currently baffled by how they can continue providing the service without necessarily increasing cost.
Already, he says the effect of keeping their user fees low is biting with up to 120 health workers exiting their network of facilities in the previous year partly due to low pay.
The highest rate of attrition was among laboratory technicians. Overall, they have a health worker stock of 10319 where 91% are paid from user fees.
However, the government’s grant to hospitals has been increasing over the years. Currently, hospitals under the catholic network are allocated 17 billion shillings annually.
But, statistics also show, user fees have increased by 38% for the last five years.
Bishop Robert Muhiirwa, the Chairman of the Health Commission, Uganda Episcopal Conference said that it is the challenges they are facing that informed their theme for this year which is based on building resilient health systems in light of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said their network of health facilities was not spared as up to 388 of their staff got infected with the virus and six of them succumbed to the viral respiratory disease.
Meanwhile, apart from giving an account of finances and human resources, officials gave an account of the services that they have been giving in the previous two years.
Dr. Orach says they conducted patient satisfaction and prescription practice surveys where they found a high antibiotic prescription rate and poly-pharmacy with facilities within the Fort Portal Diocese topping the 19 dioceses across the country.