The Kenya Ministry of Health has launched the Kenya National Patients’ Rights Charter, 2013 incorporating palliative care as a basic health right.
The first right as stipulated in the charter is to access health care; where health care shall include promotive, preventive, curative, reproductive, rehabilitative and palliative care.
Speaking during the launch of the charter, the Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said that the development of this Patients’ charter has been necessitated by the dynamics of medical practice, current constitutional dispensation and the review of other enabling legislation relevant to health,
“The launch of this charter marks a milestone in showing our commitment in upholding health care as a constitutional right to all Kenyans.” Macharia said.
He said that the government will continue to invest and improve various areas in the health sector adding that the application of the charter will promote the rights and responsibilities of patients.
“The national government will reinforce the health rights as stipulated in the constitution with an ultimate goal of ensuring efficiency in the various areas of operation.” Macharia said.
The Cabinet secretary said that survival of patients is central in health provision by health practitioners, be it nurses, doctors or pharmacists.
He said that resource constrains can make it impossible to fully exercise the health right but it should not be an excuse for inaction. “We should strive to act positively towards upholding the patients’ rights” He said.
“Even if we are few, let us do our best. Ask yourself, ‘did I do the best?’ It is those avoidable things that we should be more careful about.” Macharia said.
The Director of Medical Services (DMS) in the Ministry of Health Dr Francis Kimani said that the main purpose of health providers is to maintain life and ensure a health community.
Dr Kimani said that it is the role of health practitioners to ensure that those who leave the world go in dignity.
“We (health care providers) went to school to ensure that those who get sick turn to health as soon as possible and the difference between a good and a bad doctor is how we handle these patients.” Dr Kimani said.
The DMS said that health care providers should know that in whichever hospital or health care centre they are, they should handle patients with as much care as possible.
“Depending on how you handle the patient, she/he would live and the relatives sue you or she/he might die and the relatives praise you for the comfort you provided at end of life.” Dr Kimani said.
He said that it is important for health practitioners to be conversant with the law to avoid being prosecuted.
The Charter has three sections with section one describing the patients’ rights, which includes palliative care, section two stipulating the responsibilities of the patient and the third section outlining the dispute resolution mechanism between the patient and the health care providers.
The Ministry of Health expects all health care provides to be familiar with the Patients’ Rights Charter and apply it diligently in the provision of health care services.