The Parliamentary Health Committee has been interested in investigating the existence and operations of private pharmacies within the Mulago National Referral Hospital.
First Pharmacy and Ecopharm are the two privately owned pharmacies that sell “specialty” drugs to patients at Mulago Hospital.
While meeting with Dr. Byarugaba Baterana, Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital on the Budget Framework Document for FY2022/23 on Friday, January 14, 2022, the Vice Chairman of the Committee, H.E. Joel Yoweri Ssebikali asked for clarification on the ownership of these private pharmacies and how they gained access to Mulago Hospital.
There have been general concerns that private pharmacies collude with public health facilities to sell government drugs to patients.
“As a committee, we need to know how these private pharmacies got access to Mulago. Who owns them? How much money do they remit to the Government and how long will they stay there? Ssekikali asked.
Dr. Baterana said that the two private pharmacies are legally operating within Mulago after undergoing a competitive procurement process and that there is an MOU signed with Mulago to supply specialty drugs that cannot be obtained from National Medical Stores (NMS), a government institution responsible for acquiring, storing and distributing medicines.
“There is a shortage of specialized medications and that is why we seek the services of these private pharmacies to supply these medications. There are also some patients who come looking for particular brands of medicine that can only be provided by the private pharmacy,” Dr. Baterana said, adding that “both private pharmacies pay Shs3 million each to Mulago Hospital as rent.”
“Is it the patient who prescribes himself or is he supposed to be the doctor? This explains why people complain that there are no basic medicines in public hospitals,” he said.
In 2019, President Yoweri Museveni ordered the National Drug Authority (NDA) to cancel the licenses of the two private pharmacies operating in Mulago. However, the directive, according to Dr. Baterana, was temporarily suspended following the legal advice of the Attorney General.
The Health Committee also instructed the Government to streamline regional referral hospitals to relieve Mulago of the patient load. The Committee wants Mulago to stick to its niche by treating patients who cannot be served by other referrals.
“As long as the regional hospitals are not fully functional and efficient, Mulago will remain a nightmare. We need to help Mulago by strengthening regional hospitals”, Hon. Sylvia Bahireira Tumwekwase (Indep, Kamwenge district), said.
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