Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi with his wife Priscilla when they graced the World Cancer Day celebrations in Meru county on February 4, 2019. [Olivia Murithi, Standard]

Acute shortage of oncologists and medical staff to manage and treat cancer have been cited as a major challenge deterring the war against the disease in Nyanza.

The shortage has been termed a barrier to health access that has seen many cancer patients who would have been saved, succumb to the disease.

Three oncologists - one based at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital and two at the Aga Khan Hospital - serve the entire western and Nyanza regions.

Alfred Mayani, an oncologist at Aga Khan, said the shortage was a major setback in treatment and care.

Dr Mayani said more human resources were needed to help in early detection and prevention of cancer.

“Cancer is curable when detected early and this can be intervened by specialists. However, they are few and overwhelmed,” said Mayani.

Kisumu Cancer Support Group Chairman Lameck Oyoo said breast, cervical and throat cancers contributed to many deaths because of late detection.

County Clinical Officer Charles Ngwala said the administration planned to partner with Aga Khan Hospital to outsource cancer specialist services.

“This will help patients get access to treatments, thus reducing costs,” said Mr Ngwala.

He said the county administration was training one oncologist at the Moi Teaching and Referral in Eldoret as a measure to help fill the gaps.

He explained that with the formation of a functional county board, more medical staff would be employed, saying funds were available to absorb and retain the employees.

Public hospitals

He said with Universal Health Coverage (UHC), patients would get free medical care - screening, treatment and surgeries - in public hospitals.

“Healthcare workers have been outstretched with the piloting of UHC, given the increased number of patients,” he said.

The county has said it will absorb more staff, including the specialists.