Medics complain of hiked prices at County referral hospital

Officials of two medics’ unions have accused the Kakamega Teaching and Referral Hospital of overcharging patients.

Eunice Chebet, the secretary general of the Kakamega branch of the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers, yesterday said the hospital was crowded because it was detaining patients who could not pay their bills.

“The mortality rate is high because we do not have drugs. Even when we get referrals from health centres and dispensaries, we are unable to save lives. The provision of affordable health care is a pipe dream,” said Ms Chebet.

She added: “If patients are paying money after discharge, how come the hospital doesn’t have drugs? The procurement system is failing us.”

Chebet said the union had raised the issues with the hospital management, but had been threatened with sacking.

“It’s like the hospital doesn’t care whether the next patient coming for treatment will get better services or not. Those with NHIF cards are given first priority since the hospital will quote exorbitant prices after treatment.”

The Kenya National Union of Nurses Kakamega branch secretary general, Renson Bulunya, said MRI and CT-scan machines that were launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta on October 20 were not working.

Mr Bulunya accused hospital staff of conspiring to keep the information secret so that they could refer patients to their private clinics.

"Normal charges for an MRI scan is between Sh6,000 and Sh12,000 and a CT-scan is Sh6,000, but at the private clinics they pay over Sh20,000 and at least 10,000 respectively for the same services. The images produced by the hospital machines are not clear, making it difficult to make a correct diagnosis," Bulunya said.

Basic drugs

He added that members also lacked basic drugs and other essentials to facilitate treatment. “We do not have quinine and paracetamol or gloves and syringes, and this can compromise patient care."

The Butali/Chegulo ward representative, Kevin Mahelo, who is a member of the assembly's Health committee, however, said that when a proposal to raise hospital charges was brought before the house for the 2018/19 financial year, it was rejected.

“The assembly did not pass the Bill to hike prices at the referral hospital and other health facilities. We asked the hospital management to do benchmarking in other counties but they ignored our recommendations,” said Mr Mahelo.

He added: “I had a patient with a broken leg and was charged Sh40,000 for him to get fitted with stainless steel metal plates, but at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital the cost was Sh12,000."

The assertions contradicted Governor Wycliffe Oparanya's recent statement that the hospital was charging fees that were standard in all Level 5 facilities in the county.

“Those who cannot afford treatment at the referral hospital can go to sub-county hospitals, health centres and dispensaries since they charge normal prices,” said Mr Oparanya. The governor also said the broken machines had been replaced, adding that the hospital was providing specialised surgeries and critical care services.