By Shirleen Kuria on 3 March 2021 – 7:46 am A hospital bed at Waithaka Health Center in Nairobi. File

Kenyan health institutions could soon be prohibited from referring patients abroad before exhausting local hospitals for medical attention. This is if a new bill by Parliament becomes law. 

The National Assembly on Tuesday, February 2 passed the Health Amendment Bill. The proposed law states that only after local hospitals have proven incapable of handling a patient’s medical condition, are patients to be referred for treatment outside the country.

The bill also limits travel abroad for treatment without approval from the ministry of health.

Surgeons at Kenyatta National Hospital performing a surgery

It also seeks to ensure mechanisms developed for the referral of patients to health institutions outside the country are efficient and well organized.

The proposed law was sponsored by Kesses MP Swarup Mishra and will have policy guidelines developed by the Health Cabinet Secretary entailing the procedures for referrals of patients abroad.

India, South Africa, UK and USA are the main destinations for over 10,000 Kenyans annually who travel in search of specialised medical treatment, spending as much as Ksh15 million per patient. 

Ailing wealthy Kenyans and those looking for better services and facilities are motivated to seek medical attention in these well-advanced countries.

Treatment in oncology, cardiac surgery, advanced neuro-spine surgery, transplant surgery, and assisted reproductive technology are some of the most sort services outside the country due to the limitations in Kenya’s medical sector in terms of technology, cost and skill.

However, the desperate need to travel for treatment has led patients into the hands of fraudsters who either over-charge them or convince them to go overseas despite treatment being available in the country.

Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital launched the first Integrated Molecular Imaging Center in Kenya, and East Africa, which serves as a diagnosis and cancer treatment centre.

The need to travel, however, will also be reduced seeing that the hospital centre houses the PET Radio-pharmacy System for imaging, and the coveted PET/CT scanning machines. 

Prior to the establishment, patients needed to travel to access efficient services in the prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.

Kenyatta University Teaching, Research and Referral Hospital (KUTRRH) along the Nairobi Northern Bypass road, in the Northwestern part of the Kenyatta University. File


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