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New hospital rates punitive to the poor

EDITORIAL
By The Standard | August 4th 2016
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu

Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu recently gazetted new medical rates chargeable by private hospitals in Kenya. These new rates set limits by specifying the minimum and maximum amounts of money that can be charged for various services being offered by the hospitals.

Medicare has not been friendly to the common citizens of this country, especially after the introduction of cost-sharing in 1989. Structural adjustment requirements and budgetary limitations compelled the Government to introduce outpatient and in-patient fees at public hospitals even though this was met by public outcry.

The sad reality is that even with the introduction of cost sharing, there was no marked improvement in service delivery and to date, lack of drugs at many public hospitals is nothing new. It is not surprising that consequently, many Kenyans turned to self-diagnosis and over-the-counter medications that have come with their own complications.

In gazetting the new rules, Dr Mailu could have been well meaning, but sentiments expressed by the Kenya Association of Private Hospitals chairman Abdi Mohammed to the effect that the new rates are way above what private hospitals have been charging, indicate there was no consultation.

The jobless Kenyan woman, and they are the majority, cannot afford Sh180,000 for a caesarean section. Consultation fee ranging from Sh1,800 to Sh7,500 for someone who cannot afford the cost of basic drugs means more and more Kenyans will be driven to quacks who will be more than willing to capitalise on this glaring irregularity.

Without stringent controls, a sprouting of illegal clinics and pharmacies is likely to be witnessed. Further, the new rates fly in the face of Government promises to make health care affordable to all Kenyans. The health of a country’s economy has a direct relation to the health of its workers, all the more reason why healthcare must be within the reach of all.

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