EDITORIAL: Probe discrimination claims by policyholders in public hospitals

Friday February 13 2015

By RWANDA TODAY

Some users of the community health insurance scheme, Mutuelle de Sante, have alleged widespread discrimination in public health institutions, especially on the basis of socioeconomic status.

They alleged being referred to private pharmacies where medicine is expensive, thus leading to limited access even to the basic medicines such as the one for treating malaria.

Public health workers claim that the country is facing a shortage of drugs and that private pharmacies have sufficient stocks of medicine compared with public ones.

In private hospitals, the medicine is not only expensive but the practice also contradicts the government’s commitment to delivering equitable treatment to all Rwandans.

In addition, denying people access to medicine is a human rights violation and is tantamount to cheating the people who religiously pay taxes for the government to deliver public services.

If indeed the claims are true, then the prioritisation of the most socioeconomically advanced patients when it comes to access to medicine will be the latest in a series of scandals that have recently rocked the public health sector.

The Ministry of Health has dismissed these allegations as untrue and challenged any Mutuelle de Santé cardholder who is told to buy medicines from private pharmacy to report the case to the ministry.

While the minister’s comments might demonstrate a sense of urgency and some degree of accountability to the taxpayer, we call upon the government to take these claims seriously and carry out indepth investigations into the matter.

With such reports, it is also likely that low-income Rwandans with inferior health insurance policies not only receive fewer health services but could also be receiving less care when treated.