At least one in every 10 doctors in Kenya has been reported to the authorities for malpractice.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists’ Board, which regulates practice, says of the 915 reported cases reported in the last 10 years, about 869 have been determined.
KMPDB boss Daniel Yumbya said only one doctor was deregistered but about 30 had their licenses suspended for not more than a year.
In this time the doctor undergoes retraining after which the board may consider their case before the end of the suspension period and in not less than six months.
Speakers at the recent State House Health Summit said this is too lenient.
They said some cases of negligence result in deaths or permanent incapacitation of patients.
But Yumbya said unnecessary suspensions and deregistrations would trigger crises in public hospitals. “In this country we produce only 1,000 doctors every year and only 6,500 doctors practice in the public sector,” he said.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union defended doctors, saying most of them are overworked and underpaid. “Societal demands stretch doctors. They also need continuous training yet the county governments have refused to release them for training,” says union boss Dr Ouma Oluga.
Yumbya said the board lacks powers to determine compensation and it is upon the doctor and patient to agree.
He said 25 such cases have been ordered for mediation between patients and doctors. Oluga said the board will introduce an online platform for Kenyans to register their complaints.
For three years, the Star Health Dodgy Doctors shortcode service 22495 has enabled users to verify the authenticity of doctors and health facilities covered by the NHIF.
Lawyers also complain that medical negligence patients rarely get justice in court as medics are reluctant to testify against their own.
Prof Kiama Wangai, who is both a lawyer and medical doctor, says lack of proper legislation ensures the failure of medical negligence cases. “Court cases are determined on the basis of evidence adduced and corroborated in a court of law,” Wangai says in a paper titled Constitutional Provisions, Practice & Procedures before the Tribunal.
He says affected patients rarely get justice before the board, where all members are doctors.