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Doctor’s bid to help cut the cost of medical care

It pains him to see a patient seek treatment late. Public hospitals where services are expected to be affordable, he says, offer no relief either as they are few and ill equipped.

“In medicine, there are no shortcuts if you want to get it right. I felt hurt whenever I was unable to help a patient due to lack of appropriate equipment to enable me come up with a proper diagnosis,” Dr Abdi Mohamed recalls.

He adds, “at that time, both of us were helpless irrespective of the services at the public hospital being affordable.”

Dr Mohamed, a graduate from the University of Nairobi’s school of medicine, says that quite often, patients die from ailments that could otherwise have been treated.

“Some patients are struggling with complications that could not have been at advanced stages simply because the charges by high-end private hospitals are far beyond their reach.

“The sky-high costs have scared many Kenyans who use cash to pay for treatment,” he says.

His dream to improve access to quality medication saw him quit a government job barely two years after employment to launch his own outfit.

He reached out to financiers to buy his idea and in November 2011, he started a low-cost centre, Ladnan Hospital, in Pangani, Nairobi. Three years down the line, the business has grown significantly and its revenue has tripled.

The centre, which is run by a board of directors chaired by a professor of medicine William Lore, has over 40 full-time employees up from 20 when it started.

The 50-bed capacity hospital mainly serves patients from Nairobi’s Eastlands as well as referrals from as far as Sudan and war-torn Somalia.

Consultation fee is Sh500 and inpatients part with Sh2,500 per night.

The hospital has a three-bed Intensive Care Unit and a two-bed High Dependence Unit. On average, the doctors attend to 50 patients in a day, up from 10 when it opened.

He says that the management at the private hospitals can cut the cost of services by ensuring that inpatient charges are at the bare minimum as well as set reasonable profit margins for drugs and other services.

“Unfortunately, some hospitals are in their own class yet they market themselves as not-for-profit institutions,” Dr Mohamed observes.

The government should invest in a universal medical cover. “Pulling resources together through a medical scheme and sharing risks will help promote a healthy population,” he says.

Diseases, particularly those requiring frequent medication, are affecting productivity and are to blame for grinding poverty in many families.

For instance, kidney infections that when detected late requires either an organ transplant or weekly dialysis during one’s lifetime.

“The treatment stands at a minimum of Sh60,000 a month and one will be away from work for at least eight days. Suppose the patient is the family’s sole bread winner and you have to pay cash for the services?” he says.

Some patients exhaust their medical cover long before the end of a financial year whereas some insurers shy away from supporting such people.

He notes that Kenya can be a hub for medical tourism in Africa if the government creates an enabling environment for development of centres of excellence.

Such centres, he points out, would cater for medical needs of patients who spend a fortune seeking treatment abroad besides attracting patients from other countries.

Fundraising for health care would significantly come down.

Regulation of the medical sector is still wanting. Enforcement of the existing laws and penalties, particularly for those practising illegally, is not punitive enough to weed out quacks.

“For instance, a fine of Sh10,000 for those putting the lives of patients at risk, is not a deterrent measure strong enough to discourage would be offenders,” he says.

Daily Nation

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