Cancer has been indiscriminately robbing away the lives of Kenyans across different age brackets and economic background. Latest data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), show that about 16,953 people died from cancer in 2017.
Kenyatta National Hospital KNH, the largest referral institution has been overburdened with the countless cases of cancer and barely enough equipment to treat patients. The dire need for equipment and specialist doctors in health centres has been amplified by the growing cancer cases, especially among the poor. Kenya boasts of just a handful of radiotherapy machines unequally distributed between KNH between the private hospitals, which are faulted by frequent breakdowns.
A bill in the Senate has proposed that all 47 counties set up cancer centres as part of the campaign to tame the spread of the disease and reduce the burden on Kenyatta National Hospital. The Cancer Prevention and Control (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which is before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Health, provides that every county should establish cancer centres and take charge in ensuring prevention, treatment and control of the disease.
“The principal object of this Bill is to amend the Cancer Prevention and Control Act to provide for additional functions of county governments in the prevention and treatment of cancer. The county governments shall be responsible for the prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and control of cancer within the county.
“The Bill also seeks to establish a county cancer centre in each county to provide specialised medical services related to cancer, including screening, diagnostic, treatment, collection of data on cancer within the county and other cancer support services such as palliative, counselling and rehabilitation services,” reads the bill.
The constitution mandates the county government to provide health care under the devolved function. The fight against the been rejuvenated as plans to build centres in Kisii, Nyeri, Mombasa and Nakuru are already underway. Practitioners are hopeful that with the government’s rigorous participation in fighting against cancer, the menace will be a thing in the past.
“Lack of awareness regarding cancer and late presentation is the greatest challenge we have locally. And this is because health centres are not equipped well to make a diagnosis and rarely consider cancer. We are better placed as a country if we have these centres in the counties. The government is conducting retraining of health workers to equip them with the necessary skills required to flag these cases during their early stages right from the centres in the rural areas,” said Dr Esther Munyoro, from KNH.