Private health service providers and local manufacturers of medical equipment and drugs have asked government to provide incentives to them, arguing that this will lower the cost of treatment in the country.

Ms Grace Kiwanuka, the Executive Director of Uganda Healthcare Federation, said at least 80 percent of inputs for manufacturing such products are imported and that manufacturers are ordered to pay all the import duties, a reason why such costs are transferred to patients in private hospitals.

While a guide on tax incentives/exemptions available to the Uganda investors provides for such exemption for imported equipment, those manufacturing such locally, but import the raw materials pay taxes on such inputs.

Kiwanuka said this must be looked into so that local manufacturers are able to produce at relatively cheaper costs. She said now is the time government has to rethink and provide tax and other incentives to such manufacturers so that medical supplies and equipment are cheaper, which in turn will translate into lowering down costs of treatment in private health facilities.

“With 80 percent of our inputs imported, there is a huge opportunity to incentivize local manufacturing in healthcare. It’s the only way even with the national health insurance that we can keep costs down. We need to dynamically, strategically and practically, not reactive and using outdated ideas,” Kiwanuka said on Monday.

She said Ugandans need to understand that the cost of running private health facilities is high and that the only way such can be made affordable is through government interventions by waiving taxes on medical equipment and supplies. Ms Kiwanuka also reiterated their earlier demand that a medical credit facility, similar to agricultural credit facility be established so that health facilities can access cheaper loans. She said the current arrangements under Uganda Development Bank has failed the private health facilities.

“We need to establish the Medical Credit Scheme so that private sector has an opportunity to actualize this. Without affordable financing tailored to health the way the Agricultural Credit Facility is tailored to agriculture we will not get the momentum we need to turn this sector around,” she said.

She said while both the ruling NRM manifesto and the ministry of health have prioritise the health of Ugandans, it has remained on paper and that more needs to be done to realize the plans.

Officials from the private health facilities and ministry of health have spent the better part of June and July in boardrooms struggling over high costs of treating Covid-19 patients in private hospitals. However, about two weeks ago, they reached an agreement to reduce the costs, but only on conditions that government also commit to waiving taxes on medical supplies and other inputs.