The waiting time for treatment for cancer patients is expected to shrink from three to one month, thanks to new machines launched by the President at Kenyatta National Hospital on Thursday.
They include a Bhabhatron II cancer therapy machine and a digital radiotherapy simulator and are designed to increase treatment to 190 patients per day from 23 as has been the case with the old Cobalt 60 technology.
With at least 37,000 cancer cases reported every year, the new technology will significantly decongest the country’s biggest referral hospital.
The digital radiotherapy simulator plans while the Bhabhatron machine is used for treatment.
The machines apply the latest technology and work hand in hand to offer effective results in the treatment of the disease that kills more than 28,000 Kenyans every year.
Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu said the simulator takes measurements and plans treatment in terms of area and strength or dose of radiation that the patient needs to destroy the cancer cells, leading to cure or their retardation.
Bhabhatron II contains the source of the radiation that is beamed to cancer cells.
He said the machines, donated by the Indian Government, include a state-of-the-art linear accelerator cancer treatment gadget valued at Sh300 million “that also works like the radiotherapy machine but after planning”.
“They produce high beaming energy that is more targeted and specific, more efficient, more refined, an advancement that increases the volume of patients daily as opposed to the old technology that would also kill unaffected cells,” Dr Mailu said.
Private hospitals charge a patient up to Sh10,000 per session of radiation therapy.
The minister said public hospitals would ask for much less.
“The National Hospital Insurance Fund has a scheme that caters for chemotherapy and radiation expenses. These are expected to go down in public hospitals,” he said.
Kenya has signed an agreement with India to build cancer hospitals in strategic areas, a decision that would see KNH remain a specialist healthcare provider.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the government would continue funding the expansion of hospitals to improve the handling of cancer cases.
“My government will upgrade KNH and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Eldoret, and establish six cancer treatment centres in strategic locations. This will improve access to treatment and enhance patient health outcomes,” he said.
Mr Kenyatta added that the government would transform the health industry through the managed equipment services, “which have improved access to specialised care in public hospitals”.
“Launching the equipment reaffirms the government’s commitment in the fight against cancer,” he said.
Indian High Commissioner to Kenya Suchitra Durai said the donation was part of an agreement reached when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the country last year.
Meanwhile, the President urged striking nurses to resume work and pave the way for negotiations.
“We are not enemies. Come we talk in order to address the issues raised. There is no need for Kenyans to suffer when they have paid taxes and expect services,” he told the KNH employees.
He said the fact that many counties had new governors should be an assurance to the nurses.
“Problems arise when people fail to listen to one another. We appreciate what you do. There is no need to take disagreements to the streets,” the President added.