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EDITORIAL: MPs’ directive on medical fees laudable

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Parliament in session
Parliament in session. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Parliament’s directive that the pricing of medical services and procedures revert to the 2006 guidelines is laudable.

For starters, the directive requires Health secretary Sicily Kariuki to immediately replace the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Rules 2016 that have been used as the basis of price escalation with earlier ones, which prescribe cheaper rates.

Besides, Parliament also gave the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board (KMPDB) six months to come up with reasonable costing of the various treatment regimens, including the cost of drugs.

There is no doubt that millions of Kenyans have received the directive with a palpable sense of relief. This is because the cost of medication is currently way beyond the reach of many people, especially low income households. From consultation fee to the cost of treatment and drugs, Kenyans have been paying for their health through the nose.

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Even before the current medical cost guidelines, Kenyans still paid large sums for treatment. It is, therefore, incomprehensible how the Health ministry, then under the leadership of Cleopa Mailu, decided to sharply increase costs by margins of up to 50 percent.

Questions should also be asked whether the legal notice, which brought about the current guidelines in July 22, 2016, followed the prerequisite procedures.

Did it, for instance, involve public participation as required by the law or it was pushed and implemented on the whims of the ministry officials?

Chances that it did not go through public participation process are high because had it done so, Kenyans would have flatly declined to endorse its implementation. It’s disconcerting that senior ministry officials, who are paid to serve the public appear to have conspired to sneak in such punitive pricing guidelines.

Having done a commendable job at flagging this anomaly and prescribing corrective measures, MPs must now go further and holistically scrutinise the health sector starting with consultation, which seems to be the cash cow even for medical practitioners – even those providing sub-par services. Some doctors are simply charging fraudulent fees, apparently taking advantage of lax regulations in the sector.

The quality of drugs and medication needs to be looked into critically too. This is because it amounts to a double tragedy for patients to pay for expensive medication prescribed by a quack doctor.

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