A group of legislators led by Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Sseggona has opposed plans by government to start charging for COVID-19 tests through the ministry of health effective today, Tuesday September 1 2020.
Last week, the Health Ministry sent tongues wagging when they revealed that truck drivers, people in need of knowing their COVID-19 status, government and public organizations, Ugandans returning from abroad, and visitors from other countries would have to pay a fee of UGX240,500 for tests to be carried out.
The letter authored and signed by the undersecretary at the Ministry of Health Geoffrey Sseremba on behalf of PS Ministry of health Dr Diana Atwiine, indicates that all people who need to carry out tests in government testing facilities will deposit the money into a COVID-19 account that has been set up, in a move aimed at reducing the high cost that the government is incurring to carry out testing for various groups.
Sseremba argued that this cost recovery mechanism will enable the health ministry acquire more test kits for continued access to testing services in the country, adding that they have received much requests from organizations to have their staff tested amidst inadequate involuntary stocks of test kits, resource constraints and high cost of testing.
But, Medard Lubega Sseggona the Busiro East MP argues that it is not a good move for the government to commercialize the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, fearing that the act could result in a spike in infections since those with no money will never present themselves for testing, and at the same time stay in the communities.
He was seconded by Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga the Mukono South MP, who noted that the set fee is very high considering the status of many Ugandans who currently cannot even afford food.
Other MPs like Hilary Lokwang, representing Ik County and Gulu Municipality MP Lyandro Komakech recommended that government continues shouldering the bill to save the millions of Ugandans whose lives are risked when those infected with COVIID-19 are not withdrawn from the communities.
Ruth Katushabe Bukomansimbi North MP suggested that the set fee is reduced to enable many Ugandans carry out the test and that the vulnerable groups should be tested at no cost.
However, the Health Ministry says that those who would want to go to private testing laboratories can also access the test at Lancet, MBN or Medipal International Hospital at an average fee of 300,000 Shillings.
Uganda currently has 2,972 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 32 deaths and 1,288 recoveries and the cases are expected to increase even more, with a possibility of many going undetected due to lack of funds to buy the US$65 test.