Kidney patients face higher bills as KNH increases transplant costs

The cost of kidney transplants at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi is set to increase by about 20 per cent as the referral facility looks to recover additional treatment costs.

The hospital on Friday said the cost of a transplant would increase to about Sh600,000 from the current Sh500,000, putting additional burden on households struggling with rising kidney ailments.

“As a government hospital we will be revising the charges upwards to about Sh100,000 because of complications that arise and the current costs of things,” said Dr John Ngigi, the consultant physician and kidney specialist at KNH.

“It is not realistic that five years down the line we are still at Sh500,000, not unless the economy is stagnant.”

This comes as the referral hospital increased the number of kidney transplants with the support of experts from the Hospital de Barcelona, Spain and subsidised drugs from Novartis Pharmaceutical.

The hospital is also about to receive 10 kidney dialysis machines under a government initiative, from the current functional 14 machines. Dr Ngigi said 16 machines have broken down.

“We will now be able to do 30 transplants per year from the previous 25 transplants in the same duration through the public private partnership with Norvatis, the Hospital de Barcelona and KNH,” he added.

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Transplants could only be done for acute kidney patients going through dialysis.

Cases of the lifestyle disease have been on the rise and official data show that about four million Kenyans have some form of kidney ailment.

The disease is most often caused by other conditions that put a strain on the kidneys. High blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes are the most common causes of kidney disease.

High blood pressure is said to cause just over a quarter of all cases of kidney failure.

About 8,000 kidney patients are on dialysis at KNH and they spend Sh5,000 per session. The treatment costs between Sh7,500 and Sh9,000 per session in private hospitals.

Only two public hospitals — KNH and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret — have the capacity to conduct kidney transplants at subsidised rates. Dr Ngigi reckons that private hospitals charge more than Sh2 million for transplants.

Patients have to wait for at least two months at KNH for kidney transplants due to a backlog. This together with the few kidney specialists locally has prompted many Kenyans to seek treatment abroad with India as the top destination.