Universal Health Coverage to save thousands of cancer patients

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe during the opening of Coast General and Referral Hospital cancer treatment centre in Mombasa. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

The roll-out of the Universal Health Coverage and increased use of the National Health Insurance Fund will save more cancer patients in the country, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has said.

Kagwe yesterday said UHC has increased access to treatment for cancer patients and reduced deaths. He spoke when he presided over World Cancer Day at the Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in Mombasa. Governor Hassan Joho was present.

The CS urged Kenyans to go for regular cancer screening to ensure early diagnosis, noting that the disease has claimed many lives and depleted families' resources.

Kagwe also toured the new Mombasa regional radiotherapy centre at the referral hospital that is set to be commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The radiotherapy centre was built by the county government and equipped by the national government.

The hospital used to only offer chemotherapy treatment from 2017 but referred patients for radiotherapy in Nairobi and abroad.

“UHC is key to accessing healthcare, including cancer treatment. Patients can now access cancer treatment here in Mombasa. With an NHIF card, one can get cancer treatment without selling a cow or their car,” he said.

Cancer survivors told of their struggles getting chemotherapy at the Coast general hospital but seeking radiotherapy services in Nairobi.

Dickson Mugaza, 65, survived colon cancer. He said the majority of those who died could not afford to travel abroad or live in Nairobi during treatment.

“Cancer can be defeated but it has been a struggle for us to survive,” Mugaza said.

Shadrack Igwo who survived prostate cancer, and university student Fadhlun Athman, 21, who had ovarian cancer, were all treated at the referral hospital. Kagwe said 42,000 patients are affected by cancer annually and that 27,000 succumb to the disease.

Joho hailed the partnership between the county and the national government, saying it has transformed Coast region’s main hospital and made it a preference for medical tourists.

The governor said with the increased use of NHIF medical cover, patients are being treated without having to pay cash.

He said cancer has devastated and disrupted many families as they bear the burden of cancer treatment in and outside the country.

Joho asked the CS to ensure the President attended the commissioning of the radiotherapy centre to raise awareness on the fight against cancer at the Coast. He said following the improvement of the public referral hospital, patients were trooping in from private institutions.

Director of medical services Andrew Mulwa said cancer centres have been opened in Garissa, Nakuru and Kisumu.