The Government has revealed of plans to again import doctors, this time specialists in cancer.
However, this importation will not be from Cuba as revealed by Director-General in the Ministry of Health Dr Wekesa Masasabi.
Kenya imported 100 doctors from Cuba in 2018 who are primarily specialists in family medicine, and distributed them across the 47 counties, for a two-year period.
“We were exploring Cuba but we were later informed that their expertise in cancer does not rank that high internationally,” said Masasabi.
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As a result, Kenya is looking to the United States, China and India which the DG said have some of the best practices hence good specialists.
India is one of the countries that Kenyans flood seeking cancer treatment, some on referral for cases that cannot be handled locally while others as a preference.
Masasabi said the ministry is looking into some of the existing partnerships Kenya has with these countries with a bid to expand them to include the clauses on importation.
“We already have broad Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with these countries, so we will look into which ones we can tweak to include this,” said Masasabi.
The decision, he noted at an intergovernmental stakeholder meeting on health between counties and the national government ending today, has been informed by the recent surge on cancer cases.
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Kenya has 35 oncologists against 47,000 new cases of cancer every year as per ministry data. There are also up to 32,000 deaths as a result of cancer every year, according to the Globocan data by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Kenyatta National Hospital and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospitals are the go-to facilities for cancer patients in the country.
But due to influx of patients, and the long queues at KNH where patients wait for up to six months to start radiotherapy, some counties, are already setting up their own cancer centres.
Embu County opened its cancer centre in August.
Masasabi was, however, quick to dismiss the idea of having a cancer centre in every county as it is the plan by some of the governors.
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“We actually do not need 47 cancer centres. We need to sit and find how we can work together. I think the issue here is that there has been some disconnect between Ministry of Health and county governments,” he said.
At the meeting, it was revealed that apart from Kenya having few specialists to handle cancer, pathologists who are key are being underutilised.
“Unfortunately, most counties have pathologists just doing postmortem but that is police work, yet their actual work is diagnosis,” said Machakos County Health Executive Dr Ancent Kituku, a pathologist.