Kenya:New rule to prevent unnecessary referral of patients abroad

A doctor will from now on only refer a patient abroad for treatment if there is evidence that hospitals in the country lack the capacity to take care of them.

The new measures, published Monday, are meant to put strict measures on international referral and to protect patients from rogue doctors who misadvise them to seek treatment abroad in exchange for kickbacks.

In the new guidelines, drawn up by Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB), patients will only be referred to foreign hospitals if there is evidence that the referral would be the most cost effective option for him/her.

“A medical or dental practitioner may refer a patient for medical or dental management abroad where the patient has opted to seek medical intervention or management abroad where public resources are not used,” reads the guideline.

The ministry also cautioned doctors against disclosing patients’ information to specialists for referral without their consent.

These new regulations come in one year after a lobby claimed that doctors were pocketing up to Sh100,000 for every patient they refer abroad.

This adds a huge financial burden on patients because the kickback is included in their medical bills.

But, now doctors will only refer those patients who will show proof that they have adequate funding before leaving the country for treatment.

“To be approved, we must know who will be footing the bills. Will it be NHIF (National Hospital Insurance Fund) or personal financing?

“We need to know if the patient has enough financing to cater for the procedure they are undergoing, their air fare to and from and the hospital charges,” explained Daniel Yumbya, the chief executive officer of KMPDB.

Dr Mailu has also directed the board, NHIF and county health executive committees to carry out fresh categorisation of health facilities across the country using the new guidelines in the next 90 days.

Last year, the government had issued guidelines on how much patients should pay for various health services in private and public hospitals.

©Alleastafrica and Daily Nation

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