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General News of Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Source: daily Graphic

Korle Bu ordered to stop illegal fees

Has anyone in the past week paid the newly introduced rates at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital?

If yes, they are entitled to a refund, says the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Subsidiary Legislation, Mr O. B. Amoah.

He has accordingly advised the management of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to revert to the old service charges since the new fees were “illegal and unconstitutional.”

He said persons who had either paid the increased rates on their own behalf or on behalf of their friends and relatives, were advised to request for a refund “without any delay.”

But the management of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital says it inadvertently misconstrued 21 parliamentary sitting days for 21 working days for the implementation of new fees charged at the hospital.

It, however, said since the approval of the fees was not in dispute, nothing was going to change as far as the implementation was concerned.

The acting Chief Executive of the hospital, Dr David Nortey, who made this known to the Daily Graphic, noted that apart from misconstruing the number of days, the hospital was also not sure when the 21 parliamentary sitting days were to take effect.

According to the September 21, 2013 edition of the Daily Graphic, patients were surprised and upset to have been directed by the hospital staff to pay increased service fees without any prior notification.

The rate for a new folder for new patients has increased from GH¢9 to GH¢16, while charges for laboratory services have shot up to between 40 and 100 per cent.

A source at the hospital informed the Daily Graphic that Parliament had given approval to the new rates proposed by the hospital through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP).

Appalled at reports that the hospital began charging the new rates from September 17, 2013, Mr Amoah said in an interview with the Daily Graphic that “the hospital is charging the fees illegally.”

That, according to him, was because Parliament was yet to approve the rates submitted by the MOFEP on behalf of the hospital and 28 other government institutions, including the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), the Lands Commission and the Road Safety Commission.

He said the Legislative Instrument L.I. 2206 titled Fees and Charges (Amendment Instrument 2013) for the various institutions were submitted on their behalf by the MOFEP on July 19, 2013.

Other institutions seeking an upward adjustment in the services they render to the public are the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), the Ghana Free Zones Board, Registrar General’s Department, Births and Deaths Registry, Parks and Gardens and the Gaming Commission.

The Public Records and Archives Administration (PRAAD), the Postal and Courier Services Regulatory Commission, the National Identification Authority and the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB) among others, are also pleading with Parliament to approve their new rates.

Mr Amoah indicated that the L.I., which sought new rates, was laid six days before Parliament went on recess and that Parliament would resume in the last week of October, 2013 after which the 21-day mandatory period for the maturity of legislative instruments would have been due.

Article 11 (7) of the 1992 Constitution states that "Any Order, Rule or Regulation made by a person or authority under a power conferred by this Constitution or any other law shall:

(a) be laid before Parliament

(b) be published in the Gazette on the day it is laid before Parliament and

(c) come into force at the expiration of twenty-one sitting days after being so laid unless Parliament, before the expiration of the twenty-one days, annuls the Order or Regulation by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament.”

That, according to Mr Amoah, who is also the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Akuapem South, was a clear indication that “it is left with 15 sitting days for the L.I. to mature. In any case, Parliament can annul the said L.I. before the mandatory 21 days elapses.”

Pointing out that laying a legislative instrument before Parliament did not mean an automatic approval, Mr Amoah, consequently, urged the management of the hospital to revert to the old fees while it awaited parliamentary approval for full implementation.

“Parliament has not approved it. You cannot use the laying as an excuse to change fees. What the hospital’s management has done and is doing is unconstitutional. Those who have paid the new charges are entitled to a refund,” Mr Amoah emphasised.

He also urged the remaining 28 government organisations to desist from charging the new rates until their various instruments were passed by Parliament.

According to Dr Nortey, the reversal of the new fees was going to be a challenge since the implementation of the new fees came with the activation of a complex Information Technology software that was linked to the payment of fees at the hospital.

Korle Bu, he said, was a law-abiding institution which went through the normal processes and institutions including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Parliament to get approval for the new fees.

Dr Nortey said the new fees were necessary because the hospital had for the past six years not review its fees although the prices of inputs and goods and services had gone up.

“This is not a unilateral decision and Korle Bu was part of 29 institutions that made a case for the upward review of fees,” he said, and dismissed the argument that Korle-Bu was fleecing patients.

The decision to increase fees, he said, was to provide quality healthcare to Ghanaians.

“Korle Bu is law-abiding and there is no way Korle Bu would fleece patients,” he added.