Over 10,000 Kenyans travel abroad in search of specialised medical care.

The government aims at making Kenya the preferred health and medical travel destination in the medium term plan as envisaged in the Vision 2030. This is through transforming Kenyan medical segment into a newly industrialised and competitive sector.

Speaking on Monday during a health and medical tourism forum in Nairobi, Health Cabinet Secretary Dr Cleopa Mailu said over 10,000 Kenyans travelled abroad to get treatment on an annual basis.

“Most of these patients seek the management of non-communicable d******s (NCDs) outside the country and yet they can be able to do it locally,” said Dr Mailu, in a speech read on his behalf by a Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services Dr Patrick Amoth.

The CS noted that Kenya has 55 percent total hospital d****s which may worsen towards 2030 if unresolved by way of training of more medical personnel and managing hospital equipment in all the county hospitals.

“The cost of care is one of the key driving sources of medical tourism which this forum must look into in order to change the medical sector in the country. The venture gives an opportunity to diversify tourism in Kenya and it is for such reasons that Kenya included it as part of the vision 2030,” said the CS.

He added that by promoting medical tourism, Kenyans and other foreigners would be able to access medical facilities and help the country to achieve the vision 2030.  “It offers a good chance for private sector to fill in the space where the government cannot manage in the medical sector,” added Mailu.

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Already, Kenya receives 3, 000 to 5, 000 foreigners every year for health-related reasons. He added that there was need to discuss how to expand infrastructure and capacity to accommodate the needs of medical tourism.

A senior economist in the Ministry of Health Elkana Ong’uti said that health tourism aimed at promoting Kenya as a destination hub for specialized medical care services and as a potentially significant exchange earner.

Ong’uti said statistics from the Ministry showed that over 54 percent male and 46 percent female patients traveled abroad for medical tourism.

He added that seven percent medical tourists ranges from the age of one to ten, six percent from the age of 11 to 20, 19 percent from the age of 31 to 40, 26 percent are from the age of 41 to 50, 29 percent are from the age of 51 to 60 while 7 percent were over 60 years old.

“Over 60 percent of patients traveling abroad suffer from either kidney d******s or c****r and currently, we have a health tourism strategy undergoing development which aims at marketing Kenya as a hub for specialized health care focusing on five strategic areas,” said Ong’uti.

These areas include creating an enabling environment, developing of heath tourism services, marketing and promotion, acquiring the human resource and promoting local production of medical products and technologies.

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“Medical tourism has seen the implementation of the various equipment services covering 98 public hospitals, namely renal equipment in 48 hospitals, Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in 11 hospitals and radiology equipment in 98 hospitals,” said Ong’uti.

“We plan to develop cost-effective medical tourism packages jointly with stakeholders, including travel and accommodation,” he said.

Approximately 10, 000 Kenyans travel abroad for health related reasons and spend between Ksh7 billion and Ksh10 billion yearly with a vast majority traveling to India.

The common services that these Kenyans go out to seek for are oncology, nephrology, cardiology and heart procedures and elective surgical procedures.

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