Legislatory framework for private medical practice in Uganda.
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BACKGROUND: In Uganda the private health sector has expanded dramatically in recent years with a striking proliferation of facilities for private medical practice which is particularly evident in urban areas. OBJECTIVES: The general objective of this study was to analyse the laws and regulations governing the private health sector in order to determine how they affect the operations and development of private medical practice in Uganda. METHODS: Between December 1995 and December 1996, we identified and reviewed all the laws, which affect private medical practice in Uganda. We discussed the contents of the laws with Ministry of Health officials and with representatives of private practitioners. We also made visits to a sample of clinics, which we inspected to ascertain compliance with the laws, and held interviews with managers of the clinics to get their views about the laws. RESULTS: Two categories of laws were identified. The first category includes two laws adopted in 1993, whose purpose is to ensure the availability at all times of efficacious and cost effective drugs in the country. The second category includes three laws, all adopted in 1996, which spell out the licensing procedures, supervision, disciplining and general control of different categories of professionals. The list of health professions, which are permitted to practice privately, was revised to include new categories, which were previously not allowed. We identified what we considered to be barriers to private health sector development, loopholes in the laws and also assessed the enforcement of the laws. The legal barriers include restrictions of drug imports, the requirement for the professionals to renew their practising licenses and to register the premises annually at one central place in the country, long periods of time mandated for acquiring experience before one can be permitted to practice privately and the finding that there are some capable professions which are still not allowed to practice privately. CONCLUSION: We made recommendations to the Ministry of Health to address all these barriers. We also recommended to the Ministry that non-professionals who have the ability to set up clinics should be allowed to register them provided they can engage professionals to operate them.