KENYA —The Kenya Renal Association (KRA), a professional association for Kenyan nephrologists and renal scientists,  has leveled serious allegations against Mediheal Hospital in Eldoret, accusing it of engaging in unethical practices related to kidney transplants.

The KRA alleges a disturbing trend of transplant commercialization and transplant tourism at the facility, including reports of kidney sales and the importation of patients for transplantation.

These practices, according to the KRA, directly contravene World Health Organization resolutions, the Declaration of Istanbul, and Kenya’s Health Act of 2017, which strictly prohibits organ trade.

Over the past two years, the KRA has been gathering evidence from donor testimonies and recipient accounts that reveals major ethical violations, including the exploitation of vulnerable donors from local communities.

The association asserts that such practices not only jeopardize the health of donors and recipients but also tarnish the reputation of Kenya’s medical community globally.

Moreover, these practices lead to a decline in voluntary donations and escalate the costs associated with organ transplants, potentially fostering a dangerous black market with risks including human trafficking and violence.

Since the inaugural kidney transplant in Kenya in 1978, hundreds of transplants have been carried out ethically and professionally, overseen by the Kenya Renal Association and the Kenya Association of Urological Surgeons.

KRA stated that these procedures have substantially improved the quality of life for kidney disease patients through voluntary donations.

Recognizing the pivotal role of kidney donors in transplantation, who receive no physical benefits but find fulfillment in aiding others, the KRA believes that ethical treatment and intensive pre- and post-operative care are critical to ensuring their health and well-being.

In response to these allegations, the KRA has immediately suspended Mediheal Hospital’s license pending a thorough investigation.

It has also suspended the licenses of all medical personnel involved and initiated disciplinary proceedings.

Additionally, the KRA will review and potentially revise the regulatory oversight of the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council concerning Mediheal Hospital.

Furthermore, the KRA has directed the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to expedite legal actions against individuals implicated in illegal transplant activities.

The association has also directed Mediheal to publicize the findings and recommendations of the Kenya Blood Transfusion and Transplant Services report.

Following this incident, KRA, in collaboration with the Kenya Association of Urological Surgeons (KAUS), the Kenya Association of Physicians (KAP), and the Renal Patients Society of Kenya (RPSK), has pledged to uphold ethical transplant practices and providing ongoing support to victims of these unethical practices while protecting their health and privacy.

These concerted efforts are aimed at eradicating unethical practices, protect the integrity of kidney transplantation in Kenya, and guarantee the safety and well-being of all patients and donors involved.

Meanwhile, this incident is not an isolated case of unethical practices in Kenya’s medical sector. In 2016, the Ministry of Health identified up to 880 doctors from public and commercial hospitals who reportedly advised patients to seek treatment overseas in exchange for kickbacks.

At the time, Health Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri told Kenya’s Business Daily newspaper that an investigation was underway to identify rogue doctors who had been collaborating with specialists in countries such as India to defraud patients of millions of shillings while depleting Kenya’s hard currency reserves.

Dr Muraguri stated that the cited Kenyan doctors had established a network of illegal connections with international hospitals to assure a steady flow of patients to the institutions, even for conditions that could be treated locally, in order to pocket the kickbacks.

While Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret were the only public hospitals offering subsidized kidney transplants, challenges such as lengthy waiting times , shortages of medical personnel and equipment further fuelled the push for foreign medical attention.

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