Hospitals must be stopped from taking poor patients hostage
- It has also become common for patients to be stopped from leaving hospitals until they clear their bills.
- NHIF is great but only scratches the surface of our healthcare needs and the poor are still left struggling financially.
I have always wondered where a ‘Mama Nguo’ who earns around Sh500 a week from washing clothes can find Sh250,000 to pay for immunosuppression drugs in preparation for her kidney transplant.
My guess is she would have to find a kidney to sell or take out a loan.
And if the procedure is botched and she dies, it is one medical injustice on top of another.
When is Kenya going to wake up to the fact that pharmaceutical companies and hospitals are holding patients to ransom?
I am a great believer in a fully funded and accessible healthcare. Lack of funds is a lame excuse that Kenyans can no longer accept.
It is cruel to tell Kenyans there is no money for healthcare when a single person can easily walk away with billions of shillings at the stroke of a pen through corruption.
We must admit that we have allowed corrupt individuals, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies to milk poor patients dry.
Initial doctor’s consultation is the easiest part. What follows next is horror for many poor patients.
Cancer patients who would be lucky to string pennies together for surgery would still need to find money for their continued care through chemotherapy.
If cancer does not go into remission, it is back to square one to look for further millions for continued care.
That is where Paybills and harambees come in, to leave a further dent in financially struggling Kenyans’ meagre incomes.
Cancer and kidney patients, in particular, have been trooping to India in desperation for treatment and, at times, left to languish in pain abroad once money runs out.
No civilised and humane country should put its people through such indignity.
Kidney care is another nightmare for patients. Those lucky enough to rely on dialysis and fund their NHIF monthly contributions can only get two dialysis sessions and limited blood tests a week on their card.
What happens if one requires three? It means they have to foot the bill for the extra dialysis.
But dialysis is only a small part of the ordeal. Most kidney patients I know need regular blood tests and medication on top of dialysis.
The two must go together for their survival; otherwise, dialysis alone is exercise in futility and patients can die from lack of medication.
The weekly bill for blood tests, scans, dialysis and medication for kidney patients can easily hit Sh20,000.
So, where would Mama Nguo, with Sh4,000 a month, find Sh20,000 a week for kidney care?
Would the medical experts, pharmaceutical companies and the government kindly tell us?
It seems premature but preventable death is a dead cert if you are poor in Kenya.
It has also become common for patients to be stopped from leaving hospitals until they clear their bills.
Most patients who require emergency treatment are forced to rely on private hospitals, most of which are busy exploiting patients for all they are worth due to lack of care at public hospitals.
Where would one get Sh2 million if they could not afford Sh500,000 in the first place?
I find the idea of locking up patients in hospitals tasteless and criminal.
Where did hospitals get these detention powers? It is like the hospitals are kidnapping people who are already struggling with their health and who now, sadly, have to contend with the unbelievable cruelty.
Undergoing surgery in Kenya is one thing I dread the most.
I am not sure whether I will be coming out alive and, if I did, would I find my healthy legs where I left them?
I have always wondered whether there are strict guidelines as to when a Kenyan surgeon is a surgeon. Is it straight from medical school?
I know in many developed health systems it takes years to become a fully qualified surgeon.
There is also periodical re-examination to ensure their skills match the latest medical research and technology.
The regulations are also strict. I am not convinced it is the same in Kenya given the current rise in medical negligence cases.
The surgical phase is the most challenging for patients and their families financially as hospital fees don’t seem to be regulated.
Patients become cash machines from the moment their heads hit the theatre bed to when they leave the hospital.
Doctors may as well be charging millions for massage therapy disguised as surgery and we are still compelled to foot the bill.
It is time health stakeholders took a long and hard look at the exploitation within hospitals.
BIG FOUR AGENDA
Many people are suffering because there is a loophole being exploited by hospitals and Big Pharma.
The onus is on the government and the medical board to ease the financial burden on patients.
Universal health coverage must mean free and accessible healthcare for all.
NHIF is great but only scratches the surface of our healthcare needs and the poor are still left struggling financially.
Kenyan healthcare demands full attention if we are to achieve that one pillar of our ‘Big Four’ Agenda.
Ms Guyo is a legal researcher in Kenya and the United Kingdom. [email protected]