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Doctors welcome move allowing them to advertise services

Health & Science
 KMA National Chairman Dr Elly Nyaim

NAIROBI: Doctors have applauded the proposed move to allow them to advertise their services for the first time in the country's history.

The Kenya Medical Association, the professional body for medical doctors in the country, supported the move, saying it will allow Kenyans to know the doctors in their localities and the services they offer.

"The advertisements will mainly be allowing doctors and specialists to make Kenyans aware about the services they offer and not about praising themselves because that will go against professional ethics," said KMA National Chairman Dr Elly Nyaim.

He added: "If for example I am a surgeon in Siaya, people in that area may not know that I am available to offer my services. So advertisements in this case would be in order."

Last week, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, which regulates doctors and medical practice in the country, indicated that doctors will be allowed to advertise their services from March this year after relevant regulations are gazetted.

Previously, it was against the medical profession's ethics for doctors to advertise themselves. Offenders face a fine not more than Sh20,000 or one year in jail or both.

On his part, Secretary General of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union said strict regulations should guide the advertisements by doctors to prevent abuse.

"The advertisements should be restricted to the services offered by a particular doctor or specialist rather than the individual himself. If left unchecked the advertising will accelerate the current trend of commercialisation of healthcare," he said.

He added: "The desire for profit by doctors should not be seen to override the need to offer health care service to Kenyans. So we should tread carefully on this matter before it is rolled out."

Dr Nyaim, who also sits in the medical board, clarified that doctors will not be allowed to give misleading and exaggerated information in their advertisements to protect the public. He said that adverts must have factual and unbiased information.

"This move may reduce the number of Kenyans seeking treatments abroad since many of them are not aware that similar services are available in the country. It was unfair to prevent Kenyan doctors from advertising their services when their colleagues from India are allowed to do so in Kenya and attracting Kenyans to seek medical treatment abroad. "

It is estimated that Kenyans spend at least Sh10 billion every year for treatment abroad, mostly in India. Many Kenyans are driven to India partly due to aggressive marketing by Indian hospitals in the country.

However, there is concern that persons posing as "herbal doctors" continue to freely advertise their services and products without any regulation.

Such herbalists have been accused of misleading Kenyans by their spurious claims about their ability to treat diseases like HIV/AIDS, diabetes and others.

"Currently, herbalists are not regulated by the Ministry of Health despite offering medical services whose efficacy and quality have not been tested. In Tanzania, there is a regulatory authority to regulate herbalists," said Dr Nyaim.

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