Desperate patients who cannot afford treatment in public and private hospitals are now turning to traditional doctors and herbalists.
The situation is so grave that relatives of patients have to sometimes walk miles away to seek for cheap help from these healers in far flung regions of the neighbouring Tanzania.
Some relatives in towns and villages along the Kenya/Tanzania border are also visiting Tanzania hospitals especially in Tarime, Mwanza and Musoma as the high cost of treatment in local health facilities render them helpless in saving the lives of their kin.
And to meet this growing demand, the healers, who are mostly from Tanzania, have now set up their clinics in Kenya’s towns and markets.
The ‘doctors’ have pitched makeshift clinics in Migori, Kehancha, Isebania and Awendo towns where they claim to treat all manner of ailments at lower costs.
“The healers are so cheap and effective compared to our health facilities here in Kenya. So it is better to seek help from our brothers and sisters from Tanzania than gamble our lives in the poorly managed and costly health facilities here at home,” said Matiko Mwikwabe, a resident of Kehancha town.
The Herbalist, Paulo Marisela from Tabora says he has treated several people in Kenya since 1998 when he set up his clinic in Kehancha town.
“I treat over 30 patients every day because I charge very low rates compared to what the government and private health facilities are demanding from patients,” he explained, when KNA visited him at his clinic recently.
He charges a consultation fee of Sh.100 but treatment varies from Sh.300 to Sh.10, 000 depending on what a patient is suffering from.
Some of healers claim to be using “majini” to detect hidden diseases and those responsible for the ailments dogging patients.
A 35-year-old mother of five, Jane Akinyi confesses to being a diehard user of traditional herbs as a result of the high cost of conventional treatment in the country.
“I find it cheap and effective. Recently my child was suffering from malnutrition but after visiting my herbalist and giving him a porridge-like concoction at only Sh.500 he is now healed and doing better,” she said.
Compounded by lack of drugs, corruption and persistent doctors’ strikes, the government hospitals despite charging a bit lower fees than the private ones are dispensing poor services leading to the exacerbated flight of patients to seek for traditional treatment.
A spot-check in a number of public health facilities revealed a high record of patient being evacuated from the facilities to seek treatment from herbalists in towns and market centres.
Save for only those suffering from ailments requiring specialists’ attention, those nursing common cold, stomach ache, pneumonia, arthritis and malaria preferred relocating to herbalists and traditional ‘doctors’ attention at lower fees.
At the Migori’s referral hospital, a source who sought anonymity confirmed the huge exodus of patients who are unable to cope up with the cost of treatment and the poor services offered there.
But a private practitioner Dr. Peter Otieno denied that they were charging exorbitant fees. “Our charges are based on the cost of drug dispensed to a patient and so private hospitals are not exploiting residents as claimed,” he said.
He said Kenyans were free to seek treatment from wherever they felt was cheap to make them better health wise.
By George Agimba