Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), the country’s largest medical facility is meeting an angry public in a bid to raise funds for a cancer hostel.
Coming in the wake of what seems to be a cancer crisis, the hospital announced it would be seeking contributions from the public to put up an accommodation hall for cancer patients travelling from upcountry.
This announcement is from a government-funded organisation, which not only receives money from the taxpayer but also raises its own revenue by charging every service it offers.
The appeal called on people “of goodwill” to help build a 140-bed hostel for cancer outpatients at a cost of Sh230 million.
It also called on an additional Sh200 million to be known as an ‘endowment fund’ to support operations at the hostel.
Many patients have died on the queues while waiting for treatment, others have slept on corridors waiting for treatment that often comes too late.
Now the hospital is naming the proposed hostel ‘Hope’, which it claims could help lessen the blow from the country’s third-largest killer disease.
“This is a hostel that will be assisting the poor who have nowhere to live in Nairobi while they come for treatment,” KNH acting Chief Executive Officer Evanson Kamuri told the Sunday Nation.
“The project is Wanjiku-driven, to help our patients who come from far and don't have somewhere to sleep while they undergo outpatient cancer services,” he said.
The idea, he said, was developed by the hospital in conjunction with the American Cancer Society after research. “The national government, Nairobi County government, as well as the business community in Kenya are involved,” he added.
Traditionally, Kenyans have often willingly jumped on these pleas to help, such as was the case of ‘Kenyans 4 Kenya’ seven years ago when they helped raise funds for the hungry up in the North, following drought.
They have also rallied to help distressed Kenyans seeking emergency surgery such as ‘cancer warrior’ Emmanuel Otieno Jadudi (who sadly died in March this year).
This fundraiser call however comes at a time when senior government officials, including some from the Ministry of Health, have been cited for looting.
Could the call be indicative of Kenya’s failed health system? Or is it a sign that there is no alternative source of funding to finance key healthcare priorities?
“The government is already handling too many emergencies, yet this is not an emergency. We wanted Wanjiku to participate and own the project. We already have a lot of positive feedback from the public,” Dr Kamuri argued, without listing them.
The KNH is not only the oldest hospital in Kenya but also a public, tertiary, referral hospital that is taxpayer-funded. The facility has been allocated Sh14.4 billion in the 2019/20 budget.
It cited data from the American Cancer Society which indicated that 29 per cent of patients missed or delayed cancer treatment, and the main barriers to treatment were accommodation while in Nairobi and transport to and from the Hospital.
Cancer treatment in Kenya is by policy offered at a subsided rate at the hospital, as an outpatient service.
This though makes it difficult for most patients who are referred from counties such as Mombasa, Marsabit, Kericho or Busia to honour appointments or even complete their treatment schedules.
Yet more than 3,000 new cancer patients begin treatment each year at the hospital.
Through an M-Pesa paybill number, the hospital asked for money from the public despite drawing funds from the exchequer.
Initially, it had announced that it was going to construct a 62-bed three-storey hostel at a cost of Sh150 million.
The hostel, whose construction was to start two years back, was meant to host patients who often sleep in the corridors as they wait for tests, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
It was to be built with support from the American Cancer Society. It is not clear whether or not the international organisation is still offering its support.
According to the hospital, the project entails construction of a building with capacity to host 140 patients, a day respite area, a cancer resource centre, a restaurant and other support services.
“A little will go a long way. Let us come together and give hope a home in Kenya,” KNH urged the public.
In 2015, KNH, in partnership with American Cancer Society, conducted a study on cancer patients attending outpatient clinic to determine barriers to cancer treatment.
These findings inspired the idea of a ‘Hope Hostel’ that would accommodate cancer patients.