Kenya yet to identify site for cancer hospital despite deal

Kenya is yet to identify a site where a cancer hospital and an oncology school can be set up, two years after a deal was reached between President Uhuru Kenyatta and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This is despite Kenyans spending huge amounts of cash every year sending patients to India for medical treatment.
“Fifty-four (54) countries were offered free money to come up with architectural plans in their respective countries where the facilities would be fully funded by India. Fifty-two (52) countries have since taken up the offer but Kenya remains undecided as no committee was formed at the Health ministry to pursue the offer,” said a medical facilities building specialist from India, Mr Sirtaj Singh Bedi.
He spoke during a health tourism conference in Nairobi this week.
In response, Dr Julius Muia, the director general of the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, said a soon-to-be-formed committee will look into the issue as well as create a robust decision making team with access to the National Treasury. This is meant to ensure that decisions by private and public health sector practitioners are implemented sooner.
The forum was told that investing in medical diagnosis machines would stem the tide of Kenyans travelling to India for treatment. Top on the list was a positron emission tomography machine, which is a proven method to detect cancer on any body organ and establish its stage. It describes where the cancer is, if it has spread, or if it is changing the way the body organ works.
Kenya’s public and private hospitals are sometimes unable to rightly diagnose various types of cancer or stages, leading to costly treatment when detected late.
In the first three months of this year, 116 patients were referred to Indian hospitals where millions of shillings were spent on treatment, transplants and surgical procedures. Data provided by the Health ministry shows that 40 per cent of them sought renal treatment, heart diseases (7.19 per cent), cancer (21.19 per cent), spinal diseases (11.89 per cent) and joints and bones diseases (5.6 per cent). The rest flew to India for other ailments.
Interestingly, this is about 20 patients airlifted monthly compared with 322 terminally ill patients flown to India for treatment in 2015, where the largest chunk comprised cancer patients (57.6 per cent), renal diseases (16.4 per cent) and heart ailments (7.8 per cent), with other diseases taking fewer percentages.
Kenyatta National Hospital’s acting clinical services deputy director, Dr Bernard Githae, said Kenyans are spending a lot of money airlifting renal patients to India yet Kenya has some of the best renal specialists.
The forum vouched for a joint private-public partnership approach to acquire the Pet machine whose estimated cost is Sh2.5 billion. The event, convened by Vision 2030 Secretariat, heard that a Pet machine could boost medical tourism.
Participants heard that delayed policy decisions and release of funds for mitigative measures adversely affected the country’s preparedness in handling various ailments.
Kenya Healthcare Federation chairman Amit Thakker said the country needs to introduce use of digital platforms in healthcare, saying other sectors such as banking and transport were using IT technologies to bring down costs and enhance efficiency.
“Many ailments can be treated at the click of a button on a web portal, without a patient visiting a medical facility,” he said.
But Kenya Medical Association chief executive Stella Bosire warned against uncontrolled marketing of health services, saying all public hospitals must first be well equipped to serve Kenyans.
Dr Thakker welcomed the exemption of duty on imported medical equipment and raw materials for drug-making, saying it would make hospital services cheaper and more available.


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