NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 15 – Medical practitioners and dentist fees are set for a downward review of 20 per cent, the Ministry of Health announced on Tuesday.
The review was recommended by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board (KMPDB) chaired by Prof George Magoha when it submitted a report to the ministry last Friday following public consultations earlier in the week.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said in a press statement on Tuesday the 20 per cent decrease in the minimum and maximum practitioners’ fees gazetted by her predecessor Cleopa Mailu in 2016 was in compliance with a directive by the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Health.
She said the recommended fee guidelines will be forwarded to the parliamentary committee for approval.
Kariuki acknowledged the goodwill from doctors saying the fees would otherwise have risen 21 per cent from the 2006 rates based on a three-year cumulative inflation rate.
“In essence, based on the inflation for the past three years, the 2016 fees would ideally have increased by a minimum of 21 per cent. To this end, the goodwill of doctors in the process of supporting universal health coverage by improving access by assuring affordability cannot go unappreciated. They have essentially given Wanjiku (the common man) a 41 per cent reduction,” she stated.
KMPDB further recommended the reduction of cost of health through a multi-sectoral approach that would comprehensively review all components contributing to the high host of healthcare.
Health insurance providers had in a forum convened by KMPDB on Tuesday last week had termed the 2016 fees as an impediment to affordable healthcare insurance saying they contributed a sizable portion of medical insurance premiums.
“If the doctors’ fees go high it means the premiums would also go high. If the premiums go high then the uptake becomes very low. As we speak, the penetration rate is about 2.7 per cent,” William Kiama from the Association of Kenya Insurers said.
“The fear from insurance companies is that if these fees continue to go up, the number of Kenyans able to subscribe to healthcare insurance would further plummet,” he added.
A number of stakeholders in the health sector had termed the 2016 rates as exploitative, calling for the return of tariffs set out in the 2006 fee guideline.
Rights Activist Benji Ndolo who spoke at the KMPDB forum described the 2016 rates as exploitative saying they were fuelling poverty as families with ailing relatives are forced to pay through the nose to access healthcare.
“The culture of exploitation continues to derail this country. Most Kenyans cannot afford these medical costs,” he said.
In a report released on November 15 last year, the National Assembly Health Committee had instructed the Health Cabinet Secretary to replace the prevailing fees with 2006 rates citing exorbitant prices.
The Sabina Chege-led committee had given KMPDB six months to come up with reasonable charges that would then replace the 2006 rates it had recommended be adopted in the interim.
The 2016 rates set the minimum consultation fee charged by general practitioners at Sh1,800 with that charged by specialists set at a minimum of Sh3,600, up from Sh1,000 and Sh2,000 respectively.
According to the guidelines, the minimum fees general surgeries range from Sh66,000 to Sh132,000. The maximum charge for most of the surgeries ranges from Sh60,000 to Sh180,000.
Under the guidelines, urological surgeries cost as must as Sh360,000.
The chairperson of Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee in the National Assembly Jeremiah Kioni had last week said the departmental committee will seek to abolish minimum fees in a bid to make healthcare more accessible in realization of the right to health as provided for under Article 43 of the Constitution.