Healthcare win as hospital evacuates DRC national for treatment
Kenya’s recent ranking among the countries with most improved health systems in Africa in the year 2020 after South Africa and Tunisia respectively, is becoming a reality by the day.
On Monday, the grades even went a notch higher when Mediheal Group of Hospitals evacuated a foreign patient through Amref air ambulance to be treated at its Eldoret facility.
The patient, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) national is among 250 foreigners who have thronged the company’s health facilities spread across the country since 2019.
The hospital chief executive Devaki Bansal said the evacuation is a huge step forward in making Kenya a preferred destination for healthcare in Africa.
“In the last few years, we have been seeing a number of patients from outside the country, majority from DRC, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia,” he told People Daily yesterday on phone.
To demonstrate that Kenya’s healthcare space has been transitioning to a level where the focus is on critical diseases, Bansal said most of the patients seek cancer, cardiac procedures and transplants treatments among others.
“At our facilities, we also treatand manage patients from those countries seeking In Vitro Fertilisation; advanced brain and spine endoscopic surgeries, joint replacements and general surgery.” he added.
Bansal said the hospital is projecting the number of patients to rise by double this year.
According to the Health Care Index, which gives a single measure of the state of each country’s health system based on data provided by the World Health Organization, Kenya had demonstrated a number of parameters required for this grading.
Focusing on providing primary health care rather than on acute diseases is one of them, and perhaps President Uhuru Kenyatta’s attention to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) triggered the ranking.
“To achieve this, my administration has worked to increase access, affordability and availability of health care services for all Kenyans,” the President said in November 30, 2021.
Access speaks to the geographical availability of health care facilities and services, he added.
The prescription for improvement of health systems in Africa, according to WHO, the World Bank, USAID, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and many other international organisations and foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will have to include other aspects such as; a more balanced, horizontal approach to disease; focus on prevention, education, and awareness of the mode of transmission or exposure to both infectious and chronic diseases.
In terms of access to healthcare, Uhuru said that since 2013, when he took over as Head of State, his government has increased the medical facilities in the country by 43 per cent through construction of 1,912 new hospitals from 4,430 since independence.
“This is an average of 239 new facilities per year,” he stated.
In 2017, Kenya was named among the top six destinations where African nationals visit seeking high-end specialised medical services.
A report, dubbed Tourism for Transformative and Inclusive Growth, outlined a number of ingredients supporting the rising status of Kenya’s medical tourism.
Some of them included; cross-border travel for medical purposes, medical services and elective procedures, which it cited is an emerging market segment that has expanded in recent years notably in Egypt; Morocco, Mauritius, South Africa and Tunisia, Kenya, included.
According to Bansal, Kenya is strategically placed given its accessibility from various parts of the continent as well as the world.
With the rising status of Kenya as a medical tourism destination, the number of local patients seeking treatment abroad is likely to drop from an estimated 10,000.
Data at the Ministry of Health shows that at least Sh10 billion is spent for medical care abroad annually.
On December 1, 2021, Nairobi West Hospital and partners launched the first-ever medical evacuation helipad to bolster emergency response. The hospital noted this facility will significantly improve medical emergencies by facilitating evacuation in Kenya and in the region.