February 2016 BusinessDaily; Doctors in Kenya will, starting next month, be allowed to market their services as part of regulatory measures taken in the wake of the referral-for-cash scandal reported exclusively by the Business Daily early this week.
The adverts carrying price per specialised treatment also seek to check the popularity of herbalists who have taken advantage of doctors’ laid back approach to mount aggressive promotional campaigns for their products.
At the moment, it runs against the medical profession’s ethics to advertise a doctor’s service.
“If doctors are allowed to advertise their services and local cost of treatment then we will not lose the over Sh10 billion annually channelled to other foreign markets for treatment that can be done in the country,” said Daniel Yumbya, chief executive officer of Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board (KMPDB).
“We are fast-tracking the process of reviewing guidelines (together with our lawyers) and in the next one month doctors will be able to advertise.”
On Monday, this newspaper reported that up to 880 doctors in public and private hospitals were being investigated by the Health ministry for allegedly advising patients to seek specialised treatment abroad in exchange for kickbacks.
As a result, local treatment facilities for cancer remain idle 40 per cent of the time.
In an interview, Mr Yumbya said that adverts by herbalists will be banned in cases where they are deemed inappropriate in the realm of medical profession.
He said quacks have flocked local media advertising with all sorts of medicinal products claiming to cure chronic diseases and their visibility is making Kenyans shun conventional healthcare and only seek a doctor’s opinion as a last resort.
“Some could even be sneaking concoctions to hospital due to cultural beliefs tied to herbal medicine and when things go bad that is when they seek professional healthcare. We shall also strip of the title “doctor” from any person not examined and reviewed by the board but purporting to cure certain illnesses,” he said.
Data from the KMPDB shows that the country only has 4,219 retained (active) doctors from 9,954 registered medical doctors, due to “lack of motivation”.
The number of foreign doctors has also gone down from 1,284 in 2015 to the current 434.
Mr Yumbya said that the present shortage of doctors is not something to be wished away, as it could be the contributing factor to the upsurge of Kenyans preferring to seek treatment abroad.
“This situation causes a triple effect. We need to motivate our doctors, for instance, in terms of housing allowance, training for career progression, promotion, in order to attract a number to study medicine.”