When Ann Waitherero was diagnosed with breast illness, her doctors recommended surgery to remove one of the organs but she did not have the Sh50,000 needed for the operation.
"I had already used close to Sh100,000 on medical bills. I had exhausted my NHIF card dues and had nothing left. I was helpless until I heard from my neighbour that Spanish doctors were coming to Maragua to offer free surgeries," she said.
Ms Waitherero is one of the patients from various counties flocking to Maragua District Hospital, thanks to the partnership between Murang’a County government and the Spanish doctors.
The programme started three years ago to offer free services to poor patients who could not raise huge medical bills required for surgeries in private hospitals.
Among the surgeries done at the facility include thyroidectomy, hernia repair, lipoma excisions, laparotomy, cystectomy, hydrocelectomy, and removal of goitre and cancerous tumours.
A study has revealed deep financial strain on households with patients suffering from the four main cancers — cervical, breast, oesophageal and prostate.
It costs between Sh172,000 and Sh759,000 to treat cervical cancer without surgery in Kenya and Sh672,000 to Sh1.25 million if one undergoes surgery, according to researchers affiliated to National Cancer Control Programme and National Cancer Institute, Kenya.
Beneficiaries of the programme praised the move by the county, saying they would not have been able to meet the huge medical bills.
The hospital’s superintendent, Dr Stephen Ngigi, said patients with different types of cancer have been flooding the facility weekly.
Speaking on Tuesday when about 20 doctors from Spain conducted free surgeries, Dr Ngigi said most of the patients attended to had tumours on breasts, thyroid and other areas.
Governor Mwangi wa Iria said they decided to partner with the medics from Spain since such services are mostly available in private hospitals that many patients cannot afford.
He said the doctors have been visiting the hospital once a year since 2016 and that due to the high number of patients, they would visit the facility twice this year.