By Moses Njomo
Thousands of cancer patients in the country will get relief following the launch of a new 62-bed three-storey hostel to accommodate outpatient treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH)
Removing or reducing these barriers will allow more patients to access and complete necessary treatment ultimately, improving the outcome of cancer treatment at KNH.
‘’Patients have in the past decided that they would really rather stay without treatment because they aren’t able to deal with the burden of accommodation and cost of travel,” said Dr. Cege Munyoro, head of KNH’s Pain and Palliative Care unit.
The hostel will also provide accommodation for caregivers as well as have a day respite area for other cancer patients who may need to refresh themselves. These benefits will relive patients and their caregivers the financial, physical and psychological misfortunes.
Dr. Cege explains that if a patient is sleeping on a corridor, it means that they are not in a position to seek alternative, saying the services offered in the new facility will be free.
The quarter billion project, is expected to break ground in August and take 12 months to complete. The project has received a grant of Sh50 million from the American Cancer Society and a further Sh50 million from Stephen Isaac, an international friend of the project.
In addition, the project will set up an endowment fund to carter to the patient’s nutritional needs. Donors said they are convinced that nutrition is a vital part of cancer treatment. Eating the right kinds of foods during and after treatment can go a long way in improving the patient’s body, they said.
A survey conducted in 2015 by KNH in partnership with the American Cancer Society, on 465 patients receiving cancer treatment showed that 29 percent of patients had missed or delayed treatment, indicating most significant barriers as transport, food, water and accommodation.
Gerald Omondi, a cancer patient from Kisumu travels more than three times a week to Nairobi to receive treatment at the Kenyatta national Hospital, this is because he has no relatives in Nairobi.
He said his agony is customary to majority of cancer patients in Kenya, who compete with difficulties to access these health services.
Omondi explained that the challenges he meets are unbearable but he has no option. He presses on hopefully for a better recovery.
According to the National Cancer Control Strategy 2017-2022, Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases in 2012.
In Kenya, cancer is estimated to be the third leading cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases. According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the leading cause of NCDs related deaths, accounting for 7 percent of overall national mortality after cardiovascular diseases.
The economic impact of cancer is significant and increasing among most of Kenya’s struggling population.
Experts said cancer’s toll on population health is inextricably linked to the economic impact, through increased medical cost, lost income, and the financial, physical, emotional burden placed on families and care givers.
The Economic Development in Africa Report, 2017 released by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) indicates that Kenya is one of Africa’s top beneficiaries of cross-border travel for medical purposes.
According to a medical tourism report for the year 2015, more than 2,000,000 patients from abroad travelled to India to seek medical treatment. India receives numerous cancer patients from Kenya who opt for the cheaper but specials medical services.
Dr. Cege is also worried that hospital staff are shying off from cancer screening despite having a leverage. She believes that is as a cause of societal stigma around issues of cancer. She explains, that KNH has gone ahead and established a cancer support group for its staff, but has in the past registered low turn outs.
Like other developing countries pushing for implementation, she argues that policy should be drafted, to make it mandatory for job seekers to disclose their cancer status. This can be argued as a privacy and human rights violation but she explains that early detection and treatment can save the financial burden to the employer. This however, should be protected by law to ensure that employers use non-discriminatory processes.