Homa Bay cancer patients suffer as new centre remains dormant

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Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

Did Governor Cyprian Awiti give false hope to cancer patients in his county when he presided over an event on April 20?

On that day, his administration opened a cancer centre at Homa Bay County Teaching and Referral Hospital.

But the Nation has established that the clinic, situated behind the mortuary, is not offering any cancer services for now, two months after it opened.

This is despite Mr Awiti promising thousands of cancer patients in Homa Bay that they will no longer have to travel to Kisumu, Kisii or Eldoret for cancer care.

He had opened the clinic and committed that his administration would set aside another Sh50 million for cancer management.

At the clinic, housed in a rehabilitated old building with a rotting roof, benches that patients should use in the waiting bay are always empty.

During our visit, a casual worker opened the exit door of the building to clean it.

No tools and equipment

The building has a reception desk and a set of hospital beds separated by bed screens, but no one ever uses them.

According to Mr Alfred Abich, a prostate cancer survivor, the facility does not resemble a cancer centre because it has no tools and equipment for managing the disease.

"I have experience in the medical field and what has been put up to offer cancer services to residents of Homa Bay County is nowhere close to what is recommended," he said.

Mr Abich attended the opening of the clinic by six county first ladies – Ms Rocila Awiti (Homa Bay), Ms Hellen Obado (Migori), Ms Rosella Rasanga (Siaya), Ms Elizabeth Ongwae (Kisii), Ms Nazi Kivutha (Makueni) and Ms Priscillah Oparanya (Kakamega).

He was among speakers who expressed happiness that the facility would ease the war against the disease.

But Mr Abich soon changed his mind and resumed getting his care at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu.

"I was happy because I knew I would no longer spend money on transport to Kisumu. But what I saw shocked me," he said.

He spends at least Sh1,000 to travel to Kisumu every month for care.

Deplorable state

"I would be happy if the facility in our county was operational. It would save a lot of people who have to incur travel expenses and help other counties to generate revenue when ours is in a deplorable state," Mr Abich said.

Hospital CEO Peter Ogolla told the Nation that the clinic offers palliative care for patients.

"We are currently sending specimens to Eldoret for diagnosis yet we can obtain specimens from our theatre," he said.

He added that the county government would soon deploy clinicians to work at the cancer clinic after they went for training on cancer management.

A medic at the hospital said machines like the Mycrotum used in tissue slicing, an automatic tissue processor used in tissue staining and a training microscope used in viewing tissue cells are essential before the clinic can open to offer services.

He said without the tools, the fight against cancer will just be a mirage.

The clinic was set up with support from the County First Ladies Association (CFLA), which brings together the spouses of governors, and organisations like the Africa Cancer Foundation and Roche.

It is the 15th in the country to be established by CFLA.

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