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Medical camps should be well regulated for the benefit of underserved Kenyans

 Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council CEO, David Kariuki. [Courtesy]

The recent media exposé on how medical camps are used by fraudsters to dupe the public underscores the need to regulate these activities.

According to the expose, the fraudsters even billed the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) millions of shillings for procedures that were never done.

First, we must appreciate that medical camps supplement the existing healthcare infrastructure, especially in areas where healthcare facilities are scarce, or the population faces financial constraints, making it difficult for them to access regular medical services.

They also act as a key platform for health education and preventive care. However, when not done per existing rules, including the Medical Practitioners and Dentist Act, these camps can be exploited to the detriment of those they are meant to serve.

Before delving into the Act, we must first appreciate that whereas these camps are beneficial, they should act as a temporary measure that supports existing infrastructure. Medical camps by their nature are short-term which can lead to inadequate follow-up care and ongoing treatment, which is essential for managing chronic conditions or complex health issues.

Complex cases and specialised care may be overlooked due to the camps’ limitations. Additionally, when the medical camps are not done in conjunction with local healthcare providers, there is a risk of a contradiction of treatments.

Another flaw is that many medical camps rely on well-meaning volunteers but when these volunteers are not licensed medical professionals, there is a risk of incorrect diagnosis, ineffective treatments, or missed diagnoses which could endanger the patients.

To address this, the Medical Practitioners and Dentist Act CAP 253 subsidiary legislation on Medical Camps (2016) stipulates that anyone intending to hold a medical camp should obtain a licence from the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC).

Registration and licensing of medical camps safeguard those obtaining treatment by ensuring that the medical or dental practitioners participating in the camps are registered and licensed to practice in Kenya.

Registration also ensures that the medical camps have the right equipment and supplies, a referral mechanism for patients requiring further management, a professional indemnity cover from a recognised organisation and a waste management policy.

The camp director is expected to file a report with KMPDC within three months of the completion of the medical camp. These requirements are meant to safeguard the health and dignity of those seeking medical assistance at the camps as well as take care of other stakeholders e.g. proper waste management ensures the public is not affected by any biohazardous materials generated at the medical camps.

So far, the Council sees signs of compliance. In the last one year, KMPDC has issued over 170 licences to institutions and persons to hold medical camps. However, although these are officially registered and licensed camps, a large number are held without the requisite licence.

It is a requirement for medical camp directors to ensure their KMPDC camp licence is displayed during the duration of the camp. This will assist the public to seek treatment only from medical camps registered and licensed by KMPDC. By addressing the pitfalls, camps can contribute to the well-being of underserved populations.

-The writer is the CEO of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council

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