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Health workers in Kenya alarmed over Sh1 million fine in Health Bill

Managing Your Money
 Kenya National Union of Nurses General Secretary Seth Panyako

NAIROBI: Health workers in public health facilities are up in arms against a proposed law that seeks to fine them Sh1 million or serve a one year jail term for failure to provide emergency medical treatment. Section 7 of the Health Bill 2016 that is being considered by a committee of the Senate imposes those sanctions any health personnel, arguing that all Kenyans have the right to emergency medical treatment despite their ability to pay.  The provision includes doctors, nurses, midwives and clinical officers. The Bill also asserts that health workers cannot refuse to treat a patient in an emergency situation even if the patient is physically or verbally abusive or sexually harasses him or her unless there alternative health care personnel available to do the job. But the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union wants the provision of fines or jail terms to be deleted from the bill. "It would be harmful to transfer burden of emergency care provision in the current circumstances of dilapidated health system to health workers," said KMPPDU Secretary General Ouma Oluga. He added: "Health workers do not have greater power than to provide health care conscientiously to the best of their knowledge within their scope of practice and ability." On his part, the Kenya National Union of Nurses has faulted the provision, saying it is imposing unfair sanctions on health workers. "Health workers cannot refuse to treat people during emergencies but they cannot work well without the necessary facilities that are lacking in public health facilities," said KNUN Secretary General Seth Panyako. He added: "The government needs to first invest in having emergency care units in all public facilities and training enough personnel on emergency care instead of putting all burden on health workers. We also need to know who will foot the bill for the emergency care." Some reports have emerged in the recent past of health facilities, including private ones, not giving emergency treatment to patients if they don’t pay substantial deposits. According to the bill, emergency medical treatment includes pre-hospital care, stabilising the health status of the patient or arranging for referral in cases where the health provider of first call does not have facilities or capability to stabilize the health status of the victim. The bill also proposes that any medical institution that fails to provide emergency medical treatment while having ability to do so commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding three million shillings. The bill was approved by MPs at the end of March and it is up to Senators to decide whether they will retain that provision or not before passing it. Panyako called for the bill to be withdrawn entirely claiming it contains many drafting flaws that needs to be re looked afresh.

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