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January 21, 2019

LEON LIDIGU: Is Kenya bothered by billions lost in medical tourism?

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects specialised medical equipment at Nyeri County Referral Hospital. /FILE
President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects specialised medical equipment at Nyeri County Referral Hospital. /FILE

The other day I bumped into 5 of your waheshimiwa’s who had just landed in Delhi for ‘medical check-up’ sheeping into a Cancer facility.  I was on my way to see a friend (let’s call her Wendy), who’s been here for almost 2 years now.

 Her mom is valiantly putting up a spirited fight against Cancer and it takes a toll on my friend. She had just graduated then this happened.  “Leon, don’t even imagine of tweeting about us,” one of your popular female Mps, hissed. I almost pulled a Moses Kuria in my comeback but was polite enough to make small talk and go my way as they entered.

DATA

Last year according to the Ministry of Health, Cancer patients made up 57.8 per cent, 16.8 per cent wanted renal disease treatment, 7.8 per cent sought treatment for cardiovascular disease while skeletal disorders   were 3.4 per cent.

The data confirmed  that 116 patients  travelled  to  India for treatment between January and March with   the percentage of men being  higher   ( 54 per cent ) , compared to women  ( 46 per cent) .

The fact I imagined   President Kenyatta’s 2015 visit to India would turn things around breaks my heart whenever I visit the many Kenyans who are suffering and are depressed in hospitals here.

 Mr.  Kenyatta, together with PM Narendra Modi, promised to consolidate efforts, transfer skills and strengthen Kenya’s capacity for specialized health services, lowering the number of those seeking treatment abroad.  Do we have anything to show for it?

 MoU’s

In 2016 ,  Apollo Hospitals which is  the largest  healthcare group  in   India  signed  an MoU with Kenyatta National  Hospital  in which   the group  was to  train Kenyan doctors and other healthcare staff at Apollo.

Specialists from the facility   would then visit KNH to conduct joint medical camps, educational lectures and training programs.

This   was to be done in line with India’s support to Kenya in developing a self-sustainable healthcare services model.

Why then did we have to import doctors from Cuba after signing such a ‘promising ‘   deal?

 Medical Tourism

 Wendy tells me her days here feel like hell. “I feel so alone as mom is always sleeping most of the time.

At times I look for a spot and just sleep over few drinks.

She’s the only hope my sisters and I have Leon,” she adds as tears roll down her big eyes. 

 Most Kenyans who bring   patients   here have to look for accommodation elsewhere.

 Many rent apartments around the hospital.

 In fact Wendy tells me they pay 50,000 Rs (Ksh 72,220) per month. “Our landlady is Kenyan; she owns many such   8 floor buildings   around if not acquiring others from Indians who own them. She then hikes the rent … takes her cut and give Indians their money back.”

I am lost for words.

 This is the reality my brothers and sisters, who have genuinely come to seek treatment for their loved ones deal with.

Aren’t we being unfair by focusing on 2020 succession politics instead of thinking of setting up Cancer facilities and fixing our health?

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