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Health Committee to Probe Operations of Private Pharmacies in Mulago Hospital

In 2019, President Yoweri Museveni ordered the National Drug Authority (NDA) to cancel licences of the two private pharmacies operating in Mulago. However, the directive, according to Dr. Baterana, was temporarily stayed following legal advice from the Attorney General.
The Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital Dr. Baterana Byarugaba appearing before PAC.

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Members of Parliament on the Health Committee are to probe the operations of private pharmacies inside Mulago National Referral Hospital.

Ecopharm and First Pharmacy are the two privately owned pharmacies operating at the National Referral Hospital.

The issue came up during the committee’s meeting with officials from the hospital led by Dr. Baterana Byarugaba Baterana, the Executive Director, Mulago National Referral Hospital regarding the coming financial year 2022/2023 Budget Framework Paper.

During the meeting, the Health Committee Vice-Chairperson, Joel Ssebikali Yoweri sought clarifications on the ownership of the private pharmacies and how they accessed premises at Mulago  Hospital.

In the past,  there have been concerns about private pharmacies conniving with public health facilities to sell government drugs to patients.

“We need to know how these private pharmacies accessed Mulago? Who owns them? How much money do they remit to Government and for how long will they stay there?” Ssebikali asked.

He demanded vital documents from the hospital officials including Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) that the hospital signed with the Ecopharm and First Pharmacy.

Dr. Baterana told MPs that the two private pharmacies are legally operating inside the hospital premises after undergoing a competitive procurement process and that there is an MOU signed with Mulago to supply specialized drugs which cannot be obtained from National Medical Stores (NMS), which is mandated to procure, store and distribute medicines to public health facilities.

“There is a shortage of specialized drugs and that is why we sought the services of these private pharmacies to supply specialized drugs. There are also some patients who come looking for particular brands of drugs which can only be provided by the private pharmacy,” said Dr. Baterana.

He further revealed that both private pharmacies pay 3 million Shillings each to Mulago Hospital as rent.

Kole North MP, Samuel Opio questioned how a patient would dictate the brand of a drug without proper prescription from medical professionals.

“Is it the patient who prescribes or is it supposed to be the medical practitioner? This explains why people complain that there are no basic drugs in public hospitals,” said Opio.

In 2019, President Yoweri Museveni ordered the National Drug Authority (NDA) to cancel licenses of the two private pharmacies operating in Mulago. However, the directive, according to Dr. Baterana, was temporarily stayed following legal advice from the Attorney General.

In relation to the hospital's budget, Dr. Baterana asked the committee for additional funding totaling 153.27 billion in the coming financial year 2022/2023. Under the Budget Framework Paper, Mulago has been allocated a ceiling of 69.275 billion.

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The Health Committee further tasked Government to streamline regional referral hospitals in order to relieve Mulago of the patient burden. The committee wants Mulago to stick to its niche of treating patients who cannot be handled by other referrals.

Kamwenge Woman MP, Sylvia  Tumwekwase noted that as long as regional hospitals are not fully functional and streamlined, Mulago will remain a nightmare.

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