A Kenyan visiting a medical specialist today would most likely be asked to part with a fee in the region of Sh5,000 for a consultation period not exceeding 15 minutes. Anything else apart from the ‘shop talk’ and a plod here and there will attract extra charges.
Unfortunately many Kenyans are not formally employed and even among the employed, most do not possess insurance policies that would take care of such charges. So most Kenyans do not consult specialists, period. This, however, does not worry these ‘special’ doctors as in their books, treating the sick includes only those who can pay – their oath of practice notwithstanding.
Rumours have done rounds for years that some surgeons operate on patients unnecessarily and that these operations are recommended by other doctors on the understanding that they get a cut of the inflated surgery fee. We know of hospitals, supposedly houses of compassion, that demand hundreds of thousands of shillings to admit critically ill patients, especially accident victims. When the hospitals refuse to admit such patients, their relatives, many of them peasants, hire vehicles, sometimes on credit, to ferry the fragile sufferers from one pig-headed hospital to another in the hope of finding an accommodating one. Most times, the rough roads accelerate the demise of the victims. They perish before can get medical attention.
That and much more sleaze is the stuff the medical sector in Kenya is made of, but kumbe mambo bado (wait, there's more)! Now we hear that medical tourism to India may be in many cases just that – tourism.
Lifestyle diseases, including cancer, have become a big burden on Kenyans, with many succumbing to it and thousands others suffering excruciating pain and disability for years. Kenya has a well-trained and experienced workforce, even in the medical sector, but unfortunately there is a limited capacity for the treatment of cancer, especially advanced cases. Or is there?
This alleged shortage of cancer doctors has forced many patients to go for further medical attention abroad, especially to India. But now it turns out that Kenyan doctors, out of greed, are sending patients to India so they can cash in on the disease and the diseased through commissions.
For the last two weeks, information has filtered out giving credence to the claim that some doctors in Kenya are sending their cancer patients unnecessarily to India to undergo ‘additional’ treatment. It now emerges that these doctors are negotiating for commissions from the Indian medical institutions and/or doctors before they can send these victims to them. Some of the patients can easily be treated locally, or the treatment in India would add no value, and the doctors in Kenya and in India know this.
Maybe some sick people being referred to Indian and other overseas hospitals are well-off and spending a few millions of their wealth may not be a problem, but most are pathetically poor Kenyans who can barely afford two meals a day. These are people who are hospitalised, courtesy of the generosity of their friends, neighbours and other kindhearted Kenyans. Taking them to India stretches the limits of good Samaritanism. But even as family and friends sell goats and land to rescue their loved ones, professionals who want for little take the 40 shekels (pardon me, rupees) in their aspiration for residences in Runda and Karen.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board acknowledges that allegations of such deals have been on the table for quite a while. In fact, the chair of the board admits that he was approached by an Indian doctor, who gave up when the good professor became too inquisitive. We are also told that the Health ministry has been investigating these allegations since last year but is yet to come out with culprits and solutions.
Clearly, Kenyans have lost their humanity and put money above all else and doctors would shamelessly profit from a poor man who sells his land to seek medical treatment abroad. Specialist medical opinion has become the preserve of the rich, but doctors must realise God created us equal and all suffer ailments, no matter their station in life. Decency demands of doctors that they treat all equally and stop trading with the poor sick, lest they court damnation.
The government must get down to basics, determine why lifestyle diseases have become the bane of Africa and then put in place measures that would check and enable early detection.
Patriotism, not overnight wealth, must guide our doctors and the experts, most of whom were brought up by peasant families. They should not put the Range Rover, Runda residence, country club membership and international education for their children ahead of lives. That lifestyle, the doctors must leave to tenderpreneuers and drug barons.