The New Times (Kigali)

30 January 2013

Rwanda: Medical Board Speaks Out On Patients Referrals

Medics in the country cannot deny a referral request to a patient who deserves it because the patient bears the costs, the National Medical Referral Board has said.

Doctor Eugene Ngoga, the chairperson of the National Medical Referral Board, was responding to public claims that some patients are usually denied medical transfers to seek further treatment abroad by the board.

He said the board comprises six independent medical specialists, who determine the patient who deserve a referral. Patients, he said, cannot be denied transfers because they would foot own costs. Medical insurance does not cover referrals.

There have been public complaints over referrals, with allegations that patients are kept waiting for too long when they request for transfer.

Kwizera (real name withheld on request) claims he was denied a transfer at one of the top hospitals in Kigali 'since he was destined for death.' He was involved in an accident and diagnosed with a complicated arterial dysfunction. He claims doctors told him that his situation was incurable so there was no need for transfer.

"The doctor told me that if he suggests a transfer, then he would be risking his job because they are trying to minimise referrals. Even when I told him I was going to foot my medical bills, he said I should just wait for my 28 days to elapse," he said.

Cases for referral

But Dr Ngoga said transfer is given to patients whose ailments cannot be treated in the country or when the equipment needed for operation or to treat the disease is lacking.

"Some people insist on having a medical transfer yet their cases can be treated within the country. We now have specialists who can handle most of these cases," he said.

Kwizera said doctors in India told him that his case could be treated, so he sought assistance for a referral and was able to travel for treatment.

Among other allegations is that patients could be denied transfers because the responsible bodies may incur a lot of costs during the transfer process. But Dr Ngoga said every year specialists from other countries come to treat complicated cases, which has also reduced the number of transfers.

Dr Ngonga said patients who have the means and feel the need to access treatment in other countries cannot be denied their rights.

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