Attracting medical travellers from Kenya

Medical travel destinations may have an opportunity to attract Kenyan medical tourists, while India remains closed.  Could South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and Mauritius and possibly Europe benefit?

According to Kenya’s Health Ministry, 97% of Kenyans who travel for medical treatment chose India. Other top destinations for medical tourists from Kenya include South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and Mauritius.

Kenya’s travel ban to India is having a serious effect on medical tourists. With rising COVID-19 deaths in India, Kenya suspended flights to and from the country in early March.

Kenyans seeking treatment abroad have had to choose other destinations.

Most cases referred to India require specialised treatment, either not available in Kenya or too expensive for middle-income earners. There are certain conditions that cannot be treated in Kenya. For most patients, the cost to treat specialised cases is far cheaper in India.

Some patients have been able to get treatment locally but there is a gap between state promises on medical treatment and reality.

A report by the National Cancer Institute of Kenya (NIC-Kenya) stated that at least 90 people die each day as a result of cancer.  It is now the third leading cause of death in Kenya after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.

According to NCI-Kenya, Kenya only has 35 oncologists in both private and public hospitals. The country has one public hospital, the Kenyatta National Hospital, which can offer radiotherapy treatment. There are several private entities that offer the same treatment but this is unaffordable to the majority of Kenyans. The cost of treating cancer in Kenya can be as high as Kshs 2 million (US$19,171).

Politicians and affluent Kenyans battling cancer go to India and Europe to seek treatment. Kenya’s National Cancer Control Strategy 2017-2022 seeks to reduce cases of cancer and improve care for those already affected. Part of the cancer control strategy was to build four regional cancer treatment centres in Kisii, Nakuru, Mombasa and Nyeri but to date none have been built or seem likely to be built due to central and local government politics.