Out of Africa, Cures for Ailing Health Systems Found in Foreign Lands

Author: Medical Tourism Magazine February 17, 2014

Out of Africa, Cures for Ailing Health Systems Found in Foreign LandsAll else had failed — most importantly, her kidney and plans for an organ transplant operation. Millicent Njeri was desperate. The 24-year-old Kenyan woman had been waiting for six months to have her kidney replaced with a new one that would also accommodate an enlarged heart, but three scheduled operations at a hospital in Nairobi were postponed. Down to just 88 pounds and in deteriorating health, Njeri and her husband, Ralph King’ara, weighed their options and — like a growing number of Kenyans who are forced to seek medical tourism procedures abroad – out of Africa they went.

Hindsight is 20/20, but if the couple could have seen earlier that a trip to India would result in a successful organ transplant operation and a new lease on life, King’ara would have made arrangements sooner rather than later, and his wife would have avoided weakening dialysis and tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.

Kenya has become a less-than-willing exporter of medical tourism to markets like India, South Africa, the United States and United Kingdom, each eager to lure the country’s elite and nouveau riche. Blame the exodus on antiquated technology at local hospitals or a dearth of medical specialists, the fact is that about 100,000 medical tourism patients from Kenya travel to foreign destinations each year, according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics.

Dr. Harun A. Otieno, an interventional cardiologist and senior lecturer at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, told Daily Nation that treatment abroad for cancer, kidney and heart problems are most common; a harsh reality that does not bode well for Kenya, a country hoping to streamline its health care system and become a medical tourism destination for treatment itself in the region and across Africa.

“Seventy to 80 percent of Kenyans travel to India whereas another 10 percent go to South America,” said Otieno. “The rest settle for America and Europe. We (Kenya) lose about Sh 7

Kenya has become a less-than willing exporter of medical tourism to markets like India, South Africa, the United States and United Kingdom, each eager to lure the country’s elite and nouveau riche.

billion annually from Kenyans who travel in search of medical interventions; yet, facilities can be improved or made more accessible and affordable on our soil.”

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