The closure of 811 clinics and hospitals is one of the most comprehensive countrywide crackdowns on substandard private health service providers in recent years.
The Ministry of Health directive follows an inspection carried out from February last year to last month to ensure facilities meet standards.
These facilities are licensed to operate precisely because they complement the government’s healthcare delivery.
If they turn out to be makeshift outfits operated by quacks, then they are preying on and needlessly endangering the very people they are meant to safeguard.
Sadly, though, some of them are mere conduits through which a few greedy people enrich themselves by pretending to offer services they are not qualified to provide. This is why the crackdown should have come much earlier.
Many of the clinics were found not to have been registered or licensed.
The question that arises is: What became of the impromptu inspections of hospitals and clinics?
Could the authorities have relaxed controls or are the owners exploiting some loopholes to continue endangering lives? This amounts to criminal conduct but is hardly surprising.
Corruption in the form of bribery plays a major role in keeping these merchants of death in operation.
It also explains why, despite the much-publicised directive in a letter to the Council of Governors, some of the shady facilities are reportedly still in operation, putting patients at grave risk.
Healthcare, a vital service, is also a lucrative market for crooks driven not by the need to save lives, but to cash in on the patients’ desperation.
They must remain closed until they comply with the requirement and apply for re-inspection before they are cleared to reopen.
According to Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board CEO Daniel Yumbya, 245 of the 811 targeted institutions have since complied with the minimum standards and been cleared to reopen.
Over the years, the board has been quite active in inspecting health facilities, but would now seem overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.
Health authorities must ensure that hospitals and clinics are not just registered, but also have adequate numbers of qualified personnel.
Some of them purport to offer outpatient care or specialised services such as optical examinations, X-rays, ultrasound, gynaecology and dental diagnosis and treatment, including surgery, but clearly lack the capacity to do so.
While the campaign will substantially rid the health sector of crooks and enforce quality, the cure to this recurring disease of shoddy facilities and services is to enhance the vetting of applicants and intensify inspections so that caregivers strictly adhere to and show proof of compliance with the minimum standards.