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Do you know your healthcare rights?

Health in Kenya is recognized as a constitutional right for everyone. And part of the Ministry of Health’s mission statement is to facilitate attainment of the highest standards of healthcare for all Kenyans. This is all part of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) global initiative.

A Patients’ Rights Charter was spelt out in 2013, detailing the healthcare rights for all Kenyans. There are several reasons why you need to be aware of your health rights. Top among such reasons is the enhancement of your ability to access optimal care, regardless of your specific circumstances. Being completely ignorant of your health rights may actually compromise the quality of care you get, at worst accelerating your path to premature demise. Make it your duty to demand your healthcare rights whenever applicable, it’s enshrined in the constitution.

You have the right to access all aspects of healthcare that include preventive, curative and even palliative care. That means ready access to facilities in your locale or elsewhere, whenever the need arises. If facilities are unavailable, inaccessible or inadequately stocked and staffed, you need to be asking several questions to those responsible. If seeking care in the private sector, you have the right to select your preferred healthcare providers. Your insurer should not bully you into pre-selected facilities.

In emergency situations, healthcare facilities are obliged to offer life-saving treatment regardless of your ability to pay. You can only be transferred to another facility once stable. You must always be treated with respect and dignity at all times. If anything falls short, you have the right to complain. Your healthcare providers are obliged to respond to your grievances promptly. You still reserve the right to seek legal redress for any unresolved matters.

Healthcare providers may know what’s good for you. But you have the right to decline any proposed treatments. You should get a full explanation of any procedures, and only give consent if you fully understand what is being proposed. Anything vague opens you to the right to decline the proposed interventions, or to seek another opinion. You also have the right to withdraw any consents at any time. And if you ever need your medical records for any reason, you have the right to ask for these as well.

Having rights as a patient does not absolve you from certain responsibilities. You need to take reasonable steps to always maintain yourself in good health. No use seeking healthcare and then ignoring all the advice given by your healthcare providers. You must also extend courtesy and respect to your carers, they are doing a fine job trying to keep you healthy.

If interested in more details, get yourself a copy of the patients’ rights document from the Ministry of Health.


Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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