The Medical Trafficking Bill 2018, by Kesses MP Swarup Mishra is soon coming up for debate on the floor of the August house. The bill seeks to regulate the transfer of patients from Kenya to foreign countries for treatment. It will give teeth to regulations jointly drawn a while back by the Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB). As per these regulations, a doctor can only refer a patient abroad for treatment if there is evidence that hospitals in the country lack the capacity to take care of them. Also if the patient is using public funds, the referral has to be the most cost-effective option and approved by NHIF.
Since the 1990s, India has been celebrated as a global leader in “medical tourism. The visas to India can be ready in a week, and the country’s doctors are very qualified. These doctors are supported by world-class medical equipment, their medical procedures are approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Kenyan consumers have said the cost of treatment and care is fair compared to what you get.
Although Kenya has seen quite some advancement in medical facilities and services not least buoyed by the Asians and other foreigners setting up satellite stations in Kenya, health professionals have continued to make the fast shilling by referring patients abroad for a fee. For example surgeries like the knee, shoulder or ankle joint replacement can be treated in Kenya today. Kidney transplant too. Cancer management centres are quite a number in Kenya too. When a patient is referred abroad the cost is much higher than if the treatment was done here in Kenya even without the kickback. But patients keep being referred abroad sometimes unnecessarily.
The bill seeks to tame these marauding and unscrupulous medical practitioners, charlatans, cartels and quacks who swindle suffering Kenyans off their money in the name of specialised treatment abroad.
In a nutshell the bill we put in place a mechanism to:
- pre-qualify countries and hospitals where Kenyans can go for treatment. Some parts of the world have standards for sanitation that may not meet Kenya’s specifications. Some countries may not have stringent measures to detect and eliminate counterfeit or poor quality drugs. Others may be shutting a blind eye as to organ harvesting.
- detect the ability of the patient or his handler to communicate effectively with doctors. The language spoken in a destination country may be an impediment.
- review the agreement entered into between the health care the facility, the group arranging the trip and the patient because foreign medical facilities or country policies may make it difficult a patient to pursue a legal claim.
- facilitate the patient to assess the treatment deal by providing data. Advise the patient impartially for example if a patient is terminally ill the assessors are sure that referring him or her abroad will not do anything to save his or her life, then there is no need to refer the patient abroad.
- detect the source the organs the patient is receiving to reduced chances of patients receiving parts source unethically e.g from children, the destitute, and prison inmates. This unethical and at worst illegal and can lead to litigation.
- ensure that the patient’s medical condition is documented and well-controlled before departure. After treatment, the patient must receive a treatment summary. The records, including any post-mortem reports, must be repatriated Kenya and registered with the Kenya National Patients Register and the Kenya National Cause of Death Register.
The law will not stop patients who choose to go abroad for treatment, rather it will monitor “the how and the who”by pre-approving and monitoring healthcare facilities, groups and individuals arranging medical trips abroad for Kenyans.