New bill to tame doctors who refer patients abroad for cash

If it becomes law, all referrals to health facilities outside Kenya will be approved by the Ministry of Health

In Summary

• Rogue doctors pocket as much as Sh100,000 for every patient referred abroad. 

• Bill seeks to stop the referral of patients for treatment that can be provided in the country.

Health CS Sicily Kariuki
TAMING ROGUE DOCTORS: Health CS Sicily Kariuki

Days are numbered for doctors who deliberately misadvise patients to seek treatment abroad in exchange for kickbacks.

Kesses MP and National Assembly Health committee vice-chairperson Swarup Mishra has come up with a bill to tame the rogue doctors.

The Health (Amendment) Bill 2019 seeks to streamline the mechanisms for referral of patients to health institutions outside the country.  


Consultations, says the proposed law, will be a collaboration of the Ministry of Health, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, National Hospital Insurance Fund, the high commissioner/ambassador of the respective country in Kenya and the medical attaché in the country the patient is being referred to.

Nobody will be allowed to travel abroad for treatment without the approval from the ministry.

The bill also seeks to ensure that adequate measures are taken to establish whether the health institutions to which a patient is referred have adequate health equipment and personnel.

“A public health facility that refers a patient to a hospital outside the country will be required to ensure adequate consultations are undertaken with the Kenyan mission in the country in which the referral is made, to establish the credibility of the health institution,” it states.

Mishra told the Star on Tuesday that doctors and clinicians are misusing the referral system for economic gains.

The legislator, who is himself a medical doctor, said whereas there are diseases that can’t be treated in Kenya, some are treatable in limited hospitals in the country and they don’t warrant referrals.

“We have patients that can be treated comfortably, qualitatively and at low cost. We want to discourage people with commercial approach referring patients outside the country,” Mishra said.


His bill will also give more information to patients in terms of when it is necessary to seek treatment outside the country.

“Education of patients is key. Sometimes seeking medical services outside is mental and emotionally driven. By telling them not to go out, we will be cutting the financial interests of clinicians,” the legislator said.

In 2016, more than 880 rogue doctors were put under investigation after it emerged they were colluding with specialists in countries such as India to fleece patients of millions of shillings and draining Kenya’s hard currency reserves.

It came to light that doctors pocketed as much as Sh100,000 for every patient they referred abroad for cancer treatment when Kenya has the capacity for the treatment.

“We should have a proper guideline that will bring about sanity while ensuring timely access to quality and affordable healthcare by all Kenyans,” Mishra said.

Committee chair and Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege said it is time Kenya focused on streamlining and perfecting its local referral system.

“If the public health sector is improved and work on the county health facilities, the cost of seeking treatment in the private sector will automatically come down,” Chege said. 

(Edited by R.Wamochie)