Medical and Health Tourism: the Bane of Biomedical Knowledge Conversion in Kenya

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Medical and Health Tourism: the Bane of Biomedical Knowledge Conversion in Kenya
by UBRICA ONE - Thursday, 16 July 2015, 12:29 AM

Medical and health tourism pose serious threat to national health system in Kenya. Kenya is classified as a country of high medical risk where the general standard of medical care is poor. In such countries, quality dental services are said to be "generally not available."

In countries of high medical risk, the World Health Organization strongly recommends emergency evacuation of expatriates who sustain moderate to severe illness or injury.

Recommendation for emergency evacuation of expatriate workers creates a trend for the rich and middle income Kenyan citizens, who follow the example of the expatriate worker to seek medical care abroad, mainly Europe and United States.

Kenyan citizens, who have lost faith in the public health system, seek medical care in other countries. Medical and health tourism to South Africa and India have flourished. While the total amount of money spent by Kenyans on medical tourism is difficult to estimate, it ranges between $300-500 million per year.

When people decide to purchase medical care in another country, the domestic health system in Kenya loses financially in form of money spent purchasing health and medical services in the other country. Beyond the financial loss, is the loss of political pressure that local nationals would otherwise exert to the national leaders to improve the local health system. In this way, medical tourism is detrimental to the health care system in the country. Yet, the possibility to find care in other countries gives the local people little incentive to exert pressure for quality improvement for local health services.

It is sad that a person has to travel outside of country of residence to seek health care or medical care. Health care consumers should be able to receive the care they need (or elect to have) within the country where they reside. Travel to other countries for medical care poses serious risks. It is concerning that some people may put their health in greater jeopardy when they elect to have procedures performed in places that may not have certain standards in place. In some situations, health care consumers may acquire dangerous infections from a foreign country.

Finding information before deciding to have a medical procedure outside of the country is not possible for most people in Kenya.  It is difficult for patients to evaluate effectiveness of health care organizations, or quality of medical and health services they will receive in a foreign country. In many cases, the only available information about care in the destination country is what marketers from those countries want people to know. It is especially challenging for a person with no knowledge of health care to research. Worse, most people have few or no options and are just looking for a cure or medical help. UBRICA’s well organized system of delivery of affordable high quality care will help to overcome problems posed by medical tourism in Kenya, and restore confidence to the local health care system.