OLEMWA! UHI On Spot for Returning UGX1.8 Bn Amid Rising Heart Disease Cases

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Lawmakers on Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have criticized Uganda Heart Institute management for returning Shillings 1.8 billion to the consolidated fund while facing increased cases of heart conditions and budget cuts.

This controversy emerged after Dr. John Omagino, Executive Director of the entity informed MPs that the money returned at the end of the 2022/23 fiscal year was intended for various infrastructure projects, including a ground-breaking ceremony, public relations, and the installation of power, water, and sewerage lines at the new Naguru facility. Delays in approvals from the project’s funder led to the funds being returned to the government.

“We had to stop treating some patients, and unfortunately, some died due to budget cuts. We had to reduce the number of operations, and this was beyond the control of our accounting officers,” Dr. Omagino stated.

Muwanga Kivumbi, Chairperson of PAC, questioned Dr. Omagino about whether permission was sought from the Ministry of Finance to reallocate these funds for emergency patient treatment.

“This money could have been reallocated for emergencies. Did you attempt to ask for this reallocation and were denied? It’s concerning that you returned money while complaining about budget cuts,” Kivumbi noted.

Dr. Omagino had previously blamed the Shs5Bn budget cuts for the institute’s inability to treat all patients, leading to some being turned away or even dying.

Fredrick Angura, the Tororo South County MP, criticized Dr. Omagino for not using the available funds to treat patients, as he had done in previous years.

“In the past, you prioritized saving lives over adhering to budget constraints. This time, you should have done the same instead of letting patients die.”

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo District Woman Representative rejected Dr. Omagino’s explanation, pointing out that many patients pay for heart surgeries and other treatments, making budget cuts an insufficient reason to deny critical services.

“These are paid-for services. If patients are paying, doctors and equipment are available, so why turn them away?”

Dr. Omagino explained that the services at the Uganda Heart Institute are highly subsidized, with patients often paying only a quarter of the market price.

“Heart surgery costs US$5000 (Shs18,569,745), but many patients can’t afford it, and some end up paying 50% or nothing at all due to our waiver policy,” he said.

Muwanga raised concerns about the audit report’s authenticity, noting discrepancies. The Auditor General accused the institute of mischarging Shillings 1.8 billion on other activities, yet the same report indicated the funds were returned to the consolidated fund.

“The report seems defective and misleading. Was this an intentional or accidental oversight?” Muwanga questioned.

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