At least 811 health facilities across the country are not registered or licensed and are therefore operating illegally, says the Ministry of Health.
The ministry has since called for the closure of the facilities with immediate effect in a letter addressed to all county health executive committee members through Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya.
But do the facilities close immediately once an order is given, and what does it mean to the lives of innocent Kenyans?
This means that health facilities are in business illegally and that many Kenyans could be getting services from unqualified individuals, hence putting patients’ lives at risk.
In Kenya, healthcare appears to be a very lucrative market as signages from these facilities compete for space on the road, each hoping to attract potential patients.
In the letter, the ministry states that the 811 facilities did not meet the minimum standard for licensing and were therefore ordered to be closed until they comply and apply to the relevant regulatory bodies for inspection.
“The crackdown was based on the services offered, the health infrastructure and personnel minimum standard,” says a letter from the Director-General for Health, Dr Wekesa Masasabi.
Of the closed facilities, Nairobi had the highest number at 102, Mombasa coming in second place with 98, Machakos (48), Kiambu (44), while Bungoma had 42 facilities closed.
The inspection conducted between February and August covered 6,000 health facilities out of the 12,000 registered and licensed.
Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) Chief Executive Officer Daniel Yumbya told the Nation that out of the 811 health facilities, 245 have since complied with the minimum set standards and have been allowed to operate. The remaining 566 facilities are being considered on a case by case basis.
He said that in most facilities, there were no qualified personnel, not registered, and no clinicians. “We are going to crack the whip on the remaining 6,000 in the coming week,” he said, adding that they are more concerned with patient safety, quality care and the sanitation status of the facilities.
He added: “In most public facilities, there were no qualified personnel and in some laboratories, the technicians were not registered by the board.”
Despite the crackdown, Kenyans still throng illegal health facilities in spite of the dangers they may be exposing themselves to since there is no way of telling which is licensed and which is not.
The number of health facilities in most estates is increasing and most of them offer outpatient services or specialised ones like optical, X-rays, ultrasound, gynaecology and dental services, including surgeries. The facilities offer cheap services.
Mr Yumbya said they have been forced to close down some facilities completely since the owners ran away when the inspectors were on the ground.
“With such facilities, we don’t expect them to open again; they failed to comply and would not wish to engage them further,” he said.
In April this year, a report by the Nairobi County Public Health Department revealed that the county has 2,315 private clinics, out of which at least 800 (34 per cent) operate illegally.
But why are the numbers high despite the government introducing a short message service code to end fake-doctor and health facilities menace that has plagued the country in the recent past?
The code was to enable Kenyans to get the details and qualifications of the doctor. “When one sends the name of a doctor and facility to the SMS code 20547; they will be able to get the details and qualification of the doctor. This will make it easier to crack down on quacks. It will become operational in January next year,” said Dr Yumbya.
Mr Yumbya said that when one keys in the name of the facility, it will reveal its locality, doctor in charge and services offered.
However, when the Nation tested the code, it was not working and there was no response. The weak systems could be leading to the upsurge of quack doctors and illegal health facilities.
In Nakuru, seven health facilities were shut down as they do not comply with the minimum health standards. They are: Bagaria, Banita, Mbaruk, Naishi Game, Namuncha, Ndabibi and Ngondi dispensaries.
Also affected in the crackdown is the Nakuru National Youth Service dispensary. County governments in Coast region have lauded the move.
The county Health bosses welcomed the move, saying it will prevent residents from getting services from quacks.
In Taita Taveta, county health executive member Daniel Makoko said the Ministry has closed down seven private facilities for failing to meet the minimum requirements for operations.
“I am aware of seven private health facilities recommended for closure in our county. While it may lead to possible congestion in other facilities, I believe it is with good intentions,” he said.
His Kwale counterpart, Mr Francis Gwama said closure of the facilities would not pile pressure on public hospitals. “Those shut down are private medical clinics,” he said.
They include Al-Huda, Al-Karim, Dakotah, Kingsway, Zion medical clinics and Makina community healthcare.
In Mombasa, Chief Health Officer Khadija Shikely said closure of the facilities has improved provision of quality healthcare.
“We have got rid of quacks and illegal clinics. Our residents are now seeking health services at accredited facilities,” Dr Shikely told Nation.
A spot check in six health facilities in Kisumu that had been issued with a closure notice established that only one had complied with the notice from the Ministry of Health.
Hope for Widows and Children Foundation Clinic was the only one that had closed shop, while Ajosa Community Medical Clinic, Karure Medical Clinic, Karanjee and Global Provides Kisumu were still operational.
Reports by Angela Oketch, Francis Mureithi, Winnie Atieno, Lucy Mkanyika, Fadhili Fredrick and Donna Atola