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Bliss GVS to divest from clinics in Kenya

By Vincent Achuka and Otiato Guguyu | Published Sat, January 13th 2018 at 00:00, Updated January 12th 2018 at 21:54 GMT +3
Doctors from Bliss GVS health limited screen Knut officials during day one of Kenya National Union of Teachers 60th annual delegates’ conference at wild waters in Mombasa December 13, 2017. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

In summary

  • Indian parent firm has decided to focus on growing its pharmaceutical business
  • Firm was marred in controversy regarding provision of medical cover for teachers and police

It could be the end of the road for healthcare provider Bliss GVS after its Indian parent company decided to pull the plug on the provision of medical care in Kenya, citing over-reliance on tenders. 

Mumbai-based Bliss GVS Pharma has said it instead wants to focus on expanding its pharmaceutical business in the country.

This may signal the end of what looked to be a promising venture in the provision of cheap and accessible healthcare for millions of Kenyans.

“The board has decided after due deliberations to divest the step side subsidiary of the company Bliss GVS HealthCare Limited Nairobi,” Bliss GVS Pharma Chief Executive Vipul Thakker said in a filing at the Mumbai stock exchange.

“This decision has been made essentially to lower dependence on tender-driven managed healthcare business to focus on growing pharmaceutical business,” he said.

The company, which entered the country just five years ago, was until recently running the biggest medical cover with the teachers and police medical schemes under its wings before the Government stopped the services.

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Bliss GVS Pharma is primarily a pharmaceutical company that manufactures and markets anti-fungals, contraceptives, laxatives, anti-biotics and malaria medicines.

It entered the Kenyan market in 2013 by rolling out medical clinics.

In the last three years, its Kenyan subsidiary has been on a roll bagging million-dollar contracts for providing healthcare on behalf of insurance companies in Kenya.

Breakneck speed

This enabled it to set up clinics at major urban centres at breakneck speed, becoming one of the biggest healthcare providers in the country.

Its breakthrough came in 2016 when Aon Minet granted it a three-year contract worth $111 million (Sh11 billion) for provision of outpatient services for its 304,060 members.

Just a year before that, Aon had also granted Bliss a $35 million (Sh3.5 billion) contract for the provision of healthcare to 2.8 million Kenyan teachers and their families.

The contract, which was to be renewed annually, also included the supply of the company’s products from India for administering to patients covered under the scheme.

After bagging the two mouthwatering tenders, Bliss decided to subcontract third-party medical providers to augment its own clinics in a complex scheme that ended up becoming its Waterloo.

Towards the end of last year, Aon decided to pull out of the scheme due to endless complaints of poor services, non-compliance and fraud.

Providers vetted

By then, more than 200 medical service providers had been blacklisted after 1,600 healthcare providers were vetted.

“It is true we have had challenges but we are saying that we are taking firm action that will guarantee all teachers better service delivery,” read a statement from Aon.

The public is still looking for answers on why the Government in 2016 removed its police and prison officers from the NHIF scheme and put them under a private insurer only to return them to the State fund after just a year.

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