The fight against cancer scourge in the country received a major boost Thursday after Governor Alfred Mutua opened the Machakos Cancer Care and Research Center at the Machakos Level 5 teaching and referral hospital.
The facility, touted as the first of its kind by a county government in Kenya, will offer screening, diagnosis, counseling, chemotherapy treatment and management free of charge to residents of Machakos County registered in the Universal Health Coverage program.
Kenyan citizens within the South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc (SEKEB) region will also access special rates for cancer treatment services while the rest of Kenyans will pay a subsidized price-the cheapest in the country.
“We want to ensure that cancer treatment is for all of us, not just a few. Treatment for cancer must not be a preserve for the rich in society. Every resident of Machakos no matter how poor will be entitled to equivalent treatment as the rich who own bungalows and top of the range vehicles,” Dr. Mutua said.
The governor noted it was critical to ensure even the less privileged in the society accessed treatment for cancer. “Cancer is a disease that does not discriminate on age, gender, place of birth, or career. However, its management and treatment in Kenya have favored only the rich.”
Mutua said the program was fully funded by the county government, having ejected an initial sh 40 million to the facility. “This center can undertake the highest quality of diagnosis and provide chemotherapy. In the next budget, we will include the purchase of a sh 300 million radiotherapy machine. Our strategy is to have several diagnostic and treatment centers spread all over the county within the next three years,” he said.
Under the program, the county government will partner with hospitals and institutions of higher learning and research to attract experts from all over the world. “We will also utilize telemedicine for consultations between our doctors and experts in America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, and our African continent,” he said.
The hospital will also work closely with development partners, National Government, individuals, and experts to support in the acquisition of additional equipment and skills improvement.
Machakos First Lady, Lilian Nganga who has been conducting countywide cancer screening sessions for the past six years was elated at the ceremony. “Today I am very happy because we can do more than just diagnosing cancer. We can treat and manage the disease and also do it for free for thousands of our people who will no longer have to choose between food and cancer medication,” she said.
Mutua lauded President Uhuru Kenyatta’s passion for healthcare in the country saying the concept of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was workable in the country.
“I am telling President Kenyatta that Machakos is a good example that UHC can be affordable. It is all about political will-the rest detail,” Mutua said.
He said the commitment of 33 percent of the county’s budget to the healthcare program by his government was an indication of the importance he attaches to well-being of the people. “I am proud that Machakos has the most comprehensive healthcare system in Kenya. Our health facilities have been renovated and expanded and quality standards set up. Even our mothers in maternity wards shower with hot water,” Dr. Mutua said.
The governor praised the support by the Machakos County Assembly as well as efforts by senior officers in the department of health services for making the program a success.