George Kebaso @Morarak
Kenyans can breathe a sigh of relief as fees charged in hospitals is likely to go down if proposals made yesterday at a public forum get Cabinet approval.
Stakeholders at a meeting hosted by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board (KMPDB) at a Nairobi hotel strongly supported a move to reduce doctors’ fees by 20 per cent.
Chairman, Prof George Magoha, said the Board would this morning convene to fine-tune views from the meeting co-hosted by the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) in readiness for handing over to Health Cabinet secretary, Sicily Kariuki, on Friday.
“Rather than get new charges, we are persuading doctors to scale down what they are charging,” Magoha said after the meeting that included Civil Society Organisations.
He said more than 20 professional medical bodies have already endorsed the proposals to have the higher fees published in 2016 lowered for poor Kenyans to afford treatment.
Both Kenya Medical Association (KMA) and Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) were among 28 organisations present in a recent meeting that debated the matter for seven hours, according to Magoha, to have the user fees reduced.
“We have been tasked by the National Assembly’s Health Committee to address the 2016 fees guidelines revised upwards from those proposed in 2006. Once we have the new proposals gazzetted, the doctors have no option but to adhere,” added Magoha.
However, the doctors have vehemently protested the move with KMA and KMPDU boycotting the public forum.
According to Magoha, it was hoped that all parties would agree to the proposals so that patients could be charged less for the services and procedures in public hospitals that have been expensive.
“We are just asking the doctors to sit with us so that we can move together. We are doing this in the spirit of Universal Health Coverage, which is part of the government’s Big Four agenda,” he said.
If the proposals become the new guidelines, it means that for instance, the maximum a hospital can charge for a Caesarean section procedure will be Sh60,000 down from the Sh180,000 that some hospitals currently charge.
The lower fees were stipulated under the 2006 professional fees guidelines prepared by the government but which were never gazetted. Instead, new higher fees were published in 2016, which increased the 2006 proposal.
In December 2018, the National Assembly Health Committee gave the KMPDB one month to have new, cheaper hospital charges in place. The directive was a follow-up on the Committee’s report that directed CS Kariuki to revise the current doctor charges based on those developed in 2006.
Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) chairman, Jeremiah Kioni said the fees charged are too exorbitant for the ordinary Kenyans who are forced to seek medical services abroad, where they are cheaper.
“We have looked at the fees, and we don’t think that it is an accurate charge. We feel that amount will actually have the effect of pushing Kenyans to look for and acquire cheaper services from other countries. For instance, if you were to go for consultant review in any of the health facilities in Kenya, you will be charged around Sh4,000 or higher, but if you went to India for the same, you will pay Sh1,500. This is why we are saying that we are needlessly making the cost of treatment exorbitant,” he said.
He said it is important that the fee is reviewed so that “we can cushion the poor from high cost of treatment.”
“We will be looking to strike a balance whereby our hospitals will not be denied revenue while at the same time, we don’t want it to look like we are a sector that milks Kenyans dry of their finances,” he added.
It currently costs a maximum of Sh5,000 for general consultation fees as per the 2016 Medical Practitioners and Dentists Rules, while the maximum a general practitioner could charge is Sh2,500 as per the 2006 guidelines.