Medical Tourism in Kenya
Health or Medical tourism in Kenya has become a common form of vacationing, and covers a broad spectrum of services.
Medical tourism combines leisure and relaxation with wellness and healthcare. Broadly speaking, medical tourists are people who leave their homes to seek quality treatment, care and rest abroad where it is cheaper but superb. Although staying in a hospital may not be many people’s idea of a vacation, hospitals have become healthcare hubs for international visitors.
Many middle income economies have prioritised quality in provision of healthcare not only because they want their citizens to get the best healthcare but also to attract revenue to their countries. They export healthcare services in the form of medical tourism- which involves people traveling to another country for medical treatment at lower cost or to enjoy a vacation along with their treatment.
In East and Central Africa, Kenya has assumed a leadership role in offering quality medical care in cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, endoscopic, general and spinal surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology.
In recent years, Kenya’s largest medical referral facility, Kenyatta National Hospital and private institutions such as Nairobi and Aga Khan Hospitals, have served high profile patients from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), among others.
Karen, Nairobi, Aga Khan, MP Shah and Mater hospitals are also renowned for their sophisticated medical equipment and qualified personnel who undertake delicate operations such as heart and brain surgery, and kidney transplant.
The refurbishment of Kenyatta national Hospital and provision modern equipment has also boosted Kenya’s attraction for medical tourists. With healthcare costs rising in the US and Europe, and disposable incomes shrinking in the wake of the global recession, more people are looking to overseas destinations for treatment — a situation that provides Kenya with an opportunity to grow the industry even further.
The private sector’s response to this unique form of tourism can be gauged by the efforts of hospitals to invest heavily in diagnostic and treatment facilities, equipment, and professionals. The 320-bed ward Nairobi Hospital has been expanded and a Doctor’s Plaza with 70 suites for medical consultants built. It has also invested Sh.23 million ($287,500) in a modern oxygen plant and now produces and supplies its own oxygen.
The hospital is also ISO-certified In Quality Management Services(9001:2000), Food Safety Management System. (22000:2005), Effective Environment Management (140001:2004) and has certification for the Accreditation of the Laboratory (15189:2003).
A medical tourism report by audit, tax and financial advisory company Deloitte indicates that patients are willing to travel long distances to get medical care, ‘whether the destination is an exotic resort halfway around the world or a health care facility several hours away in a neighbouring state’
Even when airfare, hotels, travel insurance, car rentals and dining are factored in, medical vacations in Kenya are more affordable than domestic health care in some patients’ home countries. Generally, the cost of medical attention is significantly lower, sometimes by as much as half in the US, Asia or Europe. This leaves tourists with some money to tour Kenya as they recuperate.
The chief drivers of medical tourism are price, quality and service. Medical experts in Kenya see the country as a high-potential destination for medical tourists because local hospitals have the facilities and expertise. Attracting more medical tourists is a good avenue for diversification.
The Ministry of Tourism is partnering with the private sector to diversify products and services. This ensures that treatment and equipment meet international standards. Herbal medicine is also widely practised in Kenya and is often used in tandem with modern medicine or when modern medical methods fail. The Kenya Government supports herbal practice and has registered and licensed herbalists to practise in public and private hospitals.