Wellness & Fitness

What Kisumu needs to win health tourists


Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu: The county cannot rely on one facility to achieve the medical tourism hub goal. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NMG

Lakeside city Kisumu has a positive buzz. Notable improvements are roads, sanitation as well as hospitality. On the hotels front, there are many high-end hotels and boutique accommodation places. There is a definite renewed sense of growth after the post-election violence of 2007 that hurt the city’s economy.

Like other counties though, Kisumu seems to be struggling with identifying a niche economic activity to set it apart and fuel growth. A peek at The Kisumu County Development Plan indicates several pillars towards this end.

One of the pillars aims at “Setting up a star health facility for health tourism.” This ties in with other pillars like revamping tourism, sports and culture tourism for economic growth. Although the quest make sense, it, however, falls short with the misconception that one facility can establish a medical tourism hub.

The city is endowed with basics that proffer it an advantage in this desire. The first one is its bittersweet relationship with malaria, HIV, sickle cell anaemia as well as other tropical diseases. These problems, have also created massive investments and interventions in the region.

This long involvement in research creates an opportunity to have centres of excellence in medical training. Through collaborations with international organisations such Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Walter Reed, the amount of intellectual capital harnessed over the years in research and community development creates seed capital for the health tourism.

Kisumu boasts no less than two universities bolstering the intellectual capacity necessary. Maseno University, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital and Great Lakes University of Kisumu and others offer medical training.

It is not just in the fields of clinical medicine, but emerging areas like health economics and novel modelling of future health care service delivery are also rich innovation grounds the county could pursue. Its selection as a UHC county is a godsend.

To jumpstart its health tourism, there needs to be a heavy investment in high level private health facilities. However, a unified goal towards health tourism starts with all players buying into the vision and a culture of excellence in the delivery of care. This is how to stand out.

An easy starting point is targeting medical conferencing to wrestle business from Mombasa; the perennial host for scientific conventions. With better packaged conventions, there is an opportunity to tap into the domestic and neighbours like Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.

Judging by Kenya Airways flight numbers on the Kisumu route, this is an easy pick.