Indian hospital denies bribing Kenyan doctors for patient referrals

An Indian hospital has refuted allegations that they offer kickbacks to Kenyan doctors and medics to have patients referred to them for treatment and surgeries that can be performed locally.

Apollo Hospitals Group senior group marketing manager for East Africa Jignesh Sanghavi told the Business Daily they have not received “a single report to that effect” and the accusations are false.

In February, the Health ministry said it had launched investigations seeking to pinpoint rogue doctors who have been colluding with specialists in foreign countries, especially India, to fleece patients of millions of shillings by sending them abroad for ailments treatable locally.

The ministry is, however, yet to release the report that was to be ready in March. “We have never been questioned by anyone neither have we been summoned by any committee over the allegations,” said Dr Sanghavi, who is also a practising nephrologist at Apollo Hospitals Group.

“We are extremely conscious about our brand and we would not ‘bribe’ or anything to get patients.”

Dr Sanghavi said the hospital, which is the largest healthcare group from India, does not even have a structured office in Kenya that could “facilitate” the kickbacks.

It is reported that Kenyan doctors have established a cartel of illegal trade with foreign hospitals, which ensures a regular flow of patients to the facilities for kickbacks of up to Sh200,000 per patient.

The referrals are mostly cancer, kidney and cosmetic surgery patients, with the kickback included in medical bills accruing abroad.

More than 10,000 Kenyans travel abroad each year in search of treatment for various ailments, especially cancer and kidney transplants, denying the country about Sh11.24 million in lost revenue.

The Health Cabinet Secretary, Cleopa Mailu, warned that doctors found culpable will not only have their licences revoked but also charged in a court of law.

Dr Sanghavi said that their only involvement in the country currently is through a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) for capacity building during the Indian Prime Minister – Narendra Modi’s visit last week.

The MoU was signed by Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Group, who was in Nairobi as a leading member of the Indian business delegation accompanying Mr Modi. Besides capacity building, Apollo Hospitals will train Kenyan doctors and other health care staff at Apollo Hospitals in India.

He also disclosed that specialists from Apollo Hospitals will be visiting KNH to conduct joint educational lectures, training programmes and medical camps, even after the regulator stopped the latter.

The Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board (KMPDB) last month suspended medical camps organised by foreign doctors on fears of mistreatment and abetting referral of Kenyans to hospitals abroad.

“We are not conducting the medical camps without their (KMPDB) knowledge. There is a process to do it and furthermore the Board is the one to clear the foreign experts,” said KNH chief executive, Lily Koros.

The Indian hospital also signed another MoU with Airtel Group to have Airtel subscribers in African countries including Kenya, access services offered by their medical team through “Ask-Apollo” - a mobile and web platform - at subsidized consultation fees of up to 50 per cent.

Apollo Hospitals Group has a network of 64 hospitals, 2,200 retail pharmacy stores, 100 primary care and diagnostic clinics, health insurance services, clinical research division and 15 academic institutions, including a medical school.