The cost of healthcare is oddly prohibitive in this country. Public health is severely constrained and facilities are few and far part. Wherever they exist, they are perennially under-staffed, poorly equipped and their pharmacies bereft of medicines. Often, patients are given prescriptions after casual examination, which is mainly done by nursing officers as doctors are scarce unless in big hospitals.
Consequent to this, patients opt for private health facilities, which are comparatively better equipped and resourced with qualified personnel. But they are extremely expensive and far out of reach of ordinary citizens. The main causes of exorbitant medical services are doctor’s fees, medicines and consumables and accommodation. Rules and regulations exist guiding the medical fees but the question is the justification for the prices.
Currently, there is a fierce public debate about the costs of doctor’s fees, with the accent that they are excessive. In November last year, the National Assembly’s Health Committee made a declaration that the Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki should annul the present fees and revert to those published in 2006. The argument is that the doctor’s fees should go down and combined with other costs, lower the overall pricing of medical services. Civil society, consumer organisations and medical insurers have taken up the cue.
A point being made is that although the government has declared intention to provide universal healthcare, that is not tenable in a situation where doctor’s fees are exorbitant.
Kenya Medical Association, however, is not convinced. First, it has argued that there is no way the government would want to revert to the 2006 regulations because they are obsolete. At the moment, the guiding regulations are contained a notice published in 2016 — Medical Practitioners and Dentists (Professional Fees) Rules of 2016 — which the association posits, were developed through a consultative process and in line with the Constitution that anchors healthcare as a human right. Further, the association argues that whereas the government has reason to control prices in public health facilities, it should not extend its tentacles to private establishments. In all the arguments, the common denominator is that the cost of healthcare should be lowered and made affordable. What is obtaining is not sustainable. Whereas it is impractical to reverse the existing regulations and revert to the 2006, the principle is that the fees should go down. Which is the reason KMA should consider the proposal by the regulator, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board, that doctors cut their fees by at least by 20 per cent to lower costs of medical services.