Kenya is set to host eight chemotherapy centres as the health ministry races to create what could be a regional hub for cancer treatment.
Health minister Sicily Kariuki said the five-year project which begins this financial year seeks to have basic cancer treatment capability in the 47 counties under the National Cancer Control Strategy 2017 – 2022.
“Our eventual target as government is to have capability in this country and that we not only become the provider for ourselves, but a regional hub,” she said.
“We anticipate that if we package the strategies and interventions that we have in the next five years, we should also be attracting tourists who are coming here for medical tourism. That is the vision that we have.”
This however, is not the first time government is promising to set up the cancer centres.
In 2015, the ministry said such facilities would be set up in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nyeri, Eldoret, and Kisumu at a cost of Ksh1 billion ($10 million) each.
Cancer is the third top killer disease in Kenya after pneumonia and malaria, with registered deaths standing at 16,953 last year, 1,191 more than in 2016, official statistics in the Economic Survey 2018 show.
Under the National Cancer Control Strategy, the ministry aims to empower county and sub-county hospitals to provide surgery, chemotherapy and palliative care, including outpatient and inpatient hospice care.
This will support the proposed establishment of four comprehensive regional cancer treatment centres in Mombasa, Nakuru, Nyeri and Kisii for Ksh8 billion ($80 million) in the five-year period.
The plan is to ease pressure on Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital – the two public facilities with equipment for treating cancer, but which are strained.
Most cancer patients face difficulties accessing treatment in Kenya due to limited facilities which number about 12, including private ones.
A considerable number of cancer patients seeks treatment in foreign countries such as India, South Africa and the USA largely through fundraisers due to high costs involved.
“With partnership from the private sector, we will have more access because the private sector is equally investing,” Ms Kariuki said.
“One of the things we are doing beyond the one-stop shop is setting up land in consultation with the governors in the respective counties where they will be located.”
Privately-owned Mediheal Group – which operates nine medical facilities in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kigali – last week announced it would be installing cancer treatment equipment at its flagship Eldoret Centre from next January.