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Kenya can become medical tourism centre, says Uhuru

By Faith Karanja | March 10th 2020

The Redfourth Chorus Choir entertains guests during the first Kenya Healthcare Convention at the Sarit Convention and Exhibition Centre in Nairobi, yesterday. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The government is working to make the country a regional healthcare destination of choice, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

The president said Kenya already attracts patients from several countries in the region, including Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

“Kenya’s position as a regional resource for high quality healthcare is a huge advantage that needs to be leveraged further,” said Uhuru yesterday when he opened the first Kenya Healthcare Convention in Nairobi.

The convention has been organised by Express Communications Ltd and Amref Health Africa. It has received the endorsement of key players who include the Ministry of Health, Council of Governors, Kenya Healthcare Federation, Kenya Private Sector Alliance and the Kenya Investment Authority, among other participants.

Pilot counties

The president said his administration had prioritised citizens’ access to health, adding that nearly 3.2 million people had benefited from a universal health coverage programme rolled out in four pilot counties.

The initiative, he added, would soon be rolled out to the rest of the country.

The head of state said the public and private health sectors had a long-standing tradition of close cooperation that had allowed the government to extend crucial services to hard-to-reach regions.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said his vision was to ensure Kenya becomes a medical tourism destination through provision of high quality health services similar to what is offered by countries like India.

To achieve this goal, he added, healthcare costs would have to be lowered to match or beat the prices set by hospitals in India.

“The two-day convention is meant to discuss quality health issues to realise universal health coverage. We need to look at the reasons why people travel elsewhere to seek for medical treatment,” said Mutahi.

The CS revealed that his ministry would invest heavily in ICT, which would help lower healthcare costs through promotion of e-health and telemedicine.

Health workers, he noted, would also benefit from regular reorientation through online refresher courses.

“My ministry is fully committed to ensuring that the right of every person to the highest standard of health is upheld in line with the Constitution.”

Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti said counties were eager to continue working closely with the national government in improving healthcare.

“Healthcare should be treated as a common objective and should never be grounds for competition or division between the two levels of government,” said Dr Kuti, who is also the chairman of the Council of Governors’ committee on health.

Express Communications CEO Sammy Masara, who spoke on behalf of the organisers, said the objective of the convention was to give health sector practitioners an opportunity to showcase their services.

Treatment abroad

“It has been established that majority of Kenyans do not know what healthcare services are available hence they are frequently looking for the same services outside the country,” said Mr Masara.

He revealed that about 10,000 Kenyans seek medical treatment abroad and spend over Sh10 billion. Patients from neighbouring countries who seek medical service in Kenya, Masara added, number about 4,000 and they spend about Sh3 billion annually.

Amref Country Director Meshack Ndirangu said they believed that building shared value partnerships with relevant stakeholders would significantly contribute towards Kenya’s efforts to improve standards of health service delivery by fostering an environment to showcase innovation, strategic partnerships and information technology to improve quality of care.

“As we continue to contribute and support government efforts to achieve universal health coverage, we emphasise the importance of creating a national movement that prioritises the preferences and needs of consumers of health services,” said Mr Ndirangu.

Dr Amit Thakker, who spoke on behalf of Kenya Healthcare Federation, warned that there was no justification for hospitals or doctors to raise their prices due to the global outbreak of coronavirus.

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