Medical tourism requires policy sw**k to prosper

Monday, August 16th, 2021 00:00 | By
Former CS Sicily Kariuki. PHOTO/COURTESY

Kenya is in contention for top medical tourism honours with industry trends and stakeholders predicting  that the sector will grow faster if policy is streamlined.

Medical tourism is travelling outside your country of residence to receive medical care, previously the term was used to refer to patients travelling from less developed countries in pursuit of the treatment abroad.

Growing investments by private sector players in health and wellness facilities has seen the sector not only easing suffering of Kenyan patients locally, but has also attracted other nationals seeking specialised treatment services in Kenya.

Speaking to Business Hub, Fertility Point’s lead InVitro Fertilization (IVF) Dr. Rajesh Chaudhary notes there is a growing number of patients seeking medical services and other complex procedures who are now flocking Kenyan medical facilities.

Regional clients

“Other than our local clients who form the bulk of our client base, we are seeing a growing number of patients and requests coming from outside the country like Lesotho, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, South Sudan and even Europe for our fertility treatment services,” said Dr. Chaudhary in a recent media briefing.

Fertility Point is part of a network available in 12 countries globally with Kenya being the only outlet in Africa that provides top fertility treatment.

On average, the clinic gets over 35 patients seeking IVF treatment and procedures every month with a success rate of over 65 per cent.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) studies dubbed an Economic Development in Africa Report – for instance, Kenya was in 2017 ranked as one of the continent’s top beneficiaries of cross-border travel for medical purposes.

The UNCTAD’s Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth report placed Kenya among peers likely to rival a country like South Africa which has over 200 private hospitals offering services that match those of Europe, Asia, and America.

Nigeria is ranked second on the continent after South Africa in terms of best healthcare system in Africa.

Dr Amit N. Thakker, the executive chair of Africa Health Business told Business Hub that more needs to be done if Kenya’s medical tourism is to rival competition.

“The potential is there. All that is needed is, for instance, incentives such as scientific parks, concession in financing, tax breaks and a Government-led marketing strategy to help promote some of the services offered locally,” said Dr Thakker in an interview.

Complex procedures

When then Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki opened a kidney and liver transplant centre at Mediheal Hospital and Fertility Centre in Eldoret exciting the region which is closer and central to many countries in East African region.

“The day is not far when Kenya would do complex procedures like heart and lung transplants,” said Gokul Prem Kumar, the Group Vice-President Business Relations at Mediheal group of Hospitals in a previous commentary.

Thakker observes that while it is not compulsory by law, private health insurance is strongly recommended for expats in Kenya.

Without it, healthcare costs could be as expensive as in Western countries, and covering the costs for emergency care – and especially medical evacuation – out of pocket can be impossible. 

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