A patient is any person who goes to the hospital to seek health care either on in-patient or out-patient basis. In-patients are those who are admitted in the hospital for further management while out-patients are those who seek consultation or are treated and go back home. Every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health care. Health care providers are obligated to provide services conscientiously and to the best of their knowledge within their scope of practice and ability, to every person entrusted to their care or seeking their support.
Responsibilities of patients
Every patient has the following responsibilities.
- To take care of his/her health by adopting a healthy lifestyle.
- If the patient is a minor, protection, care and healthy lifestyle of the minor shall be the responsibility of the parent or guardian of the minor.
- To adopt a positive attitude towards their health and life.
- To protect the environment.
- To respect the rights of others and not to endanger their life and health.
- To give health care providers relevant, accurate information to facilitate diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and/or counseling while being truthful and honest on past health care.
- To take care of the health records in his or her possession and produce them if and when required by the health care provider.
- To keep scheduled appointments, observe time and if not possible, communicate to the health care provider.
- To follow instructions, adhere to and not abuse or misuse prescribed medication or treatment and/or rehabilitation requirements.
- To enquire about costs of treatment and rehabilitation and to make appropriate arrangements for payments.
- To be aware of the available health care services in his or her locality and to make informed choices while utilizing such services responsibly.
- To inform the health care providers, where necessary, when one wishes to donate his or her organs and/or any other arrangements/wishes upon one’s demise.
- Where an adult patient is not competent to make decisions on health care services the spouse, where applicable, next of kin and/or the guardian shall accord protection and care to the patient.
- To seek treatment at the earliest opportunity.
- To express any concerns through the right channels confidentially.
Rights of patients
Every person, patient or client has the following rights.
1. Right to access healthcare
Health care shall include:
- Promotive care: So that you can control and improve your health.
- Preventive care: Which aims to prevent illnesses and diseases and includes counseling.
- Curative care: Which aims to treat and cure any health condition.
- Reproductive care: To ensure reproductive health and well-being.
- Rehabilitative care: Services that help you keep, get back, or improve skills and functioning for daily living that have been lost or impaired because you were sick, hurt, or disabled.
- Palliative care: Which aims to provide relief from the symptoms or stress of a serious illness.
2. Right to receive emergency treatment in any health facility
In emergency situations, irrespective of the patient’s ability to pay, treatment to stabilize the patient’s condition shall be provided. Emergency treatment is the necessary immediate health care that must be administered to prevent death or worsening of a medical situation. It includes:
- Pre-hospital care.
- Stabilizing the health status of the individual.
- Arranging for referral in cases where the health care provider of first call does not have facilities or capabilities to stabilize the condition of the victim.
Any medical institution that fails to provide emergency medical treatment while having ability to do so commits an offence and is liable upon conviction to a fine.
3. Right to information
Every patient is entitled to receiving full and accurate information concerning their health and health care. In addition, every patient is entitled to access and to obtain information about their health. No question about your health or medical condition is too small to ask and there is no such thing as too many questions. You should be able to leave the facility in full understanding of your medical condition, what the next steps are and what to expect. Your health care provider is obligated to inform you, or if the patient is a minor/incapacitated to inform the guardian of the following:
- The patient’s health status.
- The range of promotive, preventive and diagnostic procedures and treatment options generally available.
- The benefits, risks, costs and consequences generally associated with each option.
- The patient’s right to refuse recommended medical options and have the implications, risk and legal consequences of such refusal.
This should be done in a language which the patient understands as far as is reasonably possible and in consideration of the patient’s level of education.
4. Right to confidentiality
It is a duty upon the medical facility and staff retain as confidential information relating to the patient including their health status, treatment or stay in a health facility. This can only be lifted by a court order or by the written consent of the patient. This shall be upheld except where consent has been expressly given or disclosure is allowed by law or in the public interest. Confidentiality shall be maintained even after a patient’s death.
5. Right to consent
Consent is your right to accept or decline medical treatment. Informed consent is a process of the health care provider getting permission before conducting a healthcare prevention on a person. Consent must be informed. This means that the patient is aware of their status and that the treatment, options and other consequences have been explained.
You should be given full and accurate information in a language you understand about the nature of your illness, diagnostic procedures, proposed treatment, alternative treatment and the costs involved for one to make a decision. The decision shall be made willingly and free from duress. Consent must be sought from a patient before health services are provided. Consent can only be given by a person other than the patient where:
- The patient has given written authorization allowing that person to act on their behalf.
- The person is authorized in law to give consent on their behalf.
- There is a court order authorizing the person to give consent.
- Where the patient is unable to give consent and no one else is mandated to, the next of kin can give the consent.
- In an emergency situation.
- Where failure to treat will result in a threat to public health.
- Any delay in treatment will result in death or irreversible damage to their health.
6. Right to choose
A patient’s right to access a health care provider of his choice shall not be unduly restricted by third parties so long as the provider of choice is qualified, registered, retained and in current good standing with the regulatory authority to provide treatment for the particular ailment or illness and as long as that choice is acceptable in medical and ethical standards. A patient, once given the necessary information on the available services in the facility, has freedom to decide on the type of the services they want.
7. Right to privacy
A person seeking health care should be seen or assessed in rooms where there is privacy so that the patient can have the confidence of giving the necessary information concerning their health problems. The private rooms are also important when performing a medical procedure where a patient will require his/her privacy to be maintained.
8. Right to refuse treatment
Any person, patient or client may refuse, withdraw or withhold treatment and such refusal shall be documented in writing by the medical service provider and in the presence of an independent witness, provided that such refusal, withdrawal or withholding does not create an immediate danger to the patient or the health of others and provided further that the consciousness and competency of the person has been taken into account.
9. Right to the highest attainable quality of health care products and services
Every person has the right to the highest attainable quality of health care products and services. A patient has the right to access safe and efficient services in any health facility and it is the responsibility of the care providers to ensure that patients are given safe services and safe surgical procedures are performed to avoid complications.
10. Right to be treated with respect and dignity
All patients or clients attending hospitals seek services, should be treated by health care providers with courtesy, consideration and attention regardless of their status.
11. Right to a second medical opinion
Every person has the right to a second medical opinion if so desired, regarding diagnosis, procedures, treatment and/or medication from any other qualified health professional of one’s choice.
12. Right to medical scheme/health insurance policy
Every person has a right to an insurance coverage without discrimination on the basis of age, pregnancy, disability, illness including mental disorders. Anyone who is enjoying the provisions of a medical cover (insured) is entitled to know all the privileges accorded and also entitled to challenge, where and if necessary, the contents and decisions of the medical scheme and health insurance policy.
13. Right to comfort
Health care providers should ensure that patients are comfortable when they are receiving health care services. This also applies when a procedure is performed where the health professional should ensure that the patient is comfortable first, before that the procedure is performed.
14. Right to opinion
A client who is attending or has visited any hospital has the freedom of expression to give their views on the type of services given to them by that particular hospital.
15. Right to continuity
A patient, who is admitted to the hospital for further management, should have a right to services as long as they are required depending on the conditions (disease) they have.
16. Right to donate organs
Every person, patient or client has the right to donate their organs and/or make any other arrangements/wishes upon their demise.
17. Right to complain
Every person has a right to complain about health services to the relevant authorities, such complaint should be investigated and receive a response from the authority within a reasonable time that does not exceed twelve months. Where there is a delay, the relevant authority shall provide the reasons.
Rights of patients
Disputes may arise from the following areas:
- Patient and health care provider.
- Patient and financier/insurer.
- Patient and the employer.
- Patient and regulatory body.
Any dispute arising from the rights and responsibilities set out herein above, their exercise and/or enforcement maybe resolved through any of the following ways:
- The patient may lodge the dispute directly with the health care provider. The provider may resolve the dispute amicably, formulate an internal inquiry, establish a committee and/or internal body to consider it and thereafter take appropriate steps which resolves the complaint conclusively to the satisfaction of all the concerned parties.
- The patient may opt to lodge the compliant with the relevant regulatory authority or body asset out by the applicable statutes, which includes:
- The Public Health Act, Chapter 242 of the Laws of Kenya.
- The Medical Practitioners & Dentists Board Act, Chapter 253 of the Laws of Kenya.
- The Pharmacy & Poisons Board, Chapter 244 of the Laws of Kenya.
- The Nursing Council of Kenya.
- The Clinical Officers Council.
- The Kenya Medical, Laboratory, Technician and Technologists Board.
- The Radiation Protection Board.
- The Nutritionists and Dietician Institute.
- The Consumer Protection Act.
- The Public Health Officers and Technicians Act.
- The patient may lodge a claim in a Court of Law seeking appropriate remedies as provided under the law.