MP eyes boost in cancer treatment with new law 

Seme MP James Nyikal

Seme MP James Nyikal (left) and Kisumu West MP Olago Oluoch during a past press briefing in Kisumu County. The Cancer Prevention and Control (Amendment) Bill, 2022 sponsored by Mr Nyikal is set to be introduced in the National Assembly for the first reading. 

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

Cancer patients will not have to travel long distances to seek treatment if Members of Parliament pass a Bill that seeks to introduce e-health and telemedicine in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

The Cancer Prevention and Control (Amendment) Bill, 2022 sponsored by Seme MP James Nyikal is set to be introduced today morning in the National Assembly for first reading. 

The proposed legislation seeks to amend section 2 of the current Act by introducing e-health and telemedicine in the treatment of cancer.

E-health means the combined use of electronic communication and information technology in the sector while telemedicine as used in the Bill means the provision of health care services and sharing of medical knowledge over a distance using telecommunications. Telemedicine also includes consultative, diagnostic and treatment services.

“The Principal Act is amended in section 5 by inserting promotion of the use of e-health and telemedicine for the prevention and management of persons with cancer,” reads the Bill.

Dr Nyikal wants the scope and functions of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) expanded to include the promotion of e-health and telemedicine. NCI was created in 2012 as an independent centre for research, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The Bill also seeks to amend the Cancer Prevention and Control Act, 2012 to provide for training of health workers in the specialised field of oncology and include cancer treatment as part of primary healthcare.

Reduce congestion

Dr Nyikal yesterday said the passage of the Bill will significantly reduce the congestion witnessed at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and other facilities dealing with cancer patients.

“The introduction of e-health telemedicine means that treatment of cancer can be done in peripheral hospitals using technology with the guidance of a specialist,” Dr Nyikal said. 

Dr Nyikal additionally pointed out that the introduction of e-health and telemedicine will also help reduce the backlog of patients waiting to see doctors in person for follow-up treatment, a thing he said will be done remotely. The MP said the introduction of e-health and telemedicine will mean that cancer can be detected at an early stage even in Level Three hospitals.

“We don’t have to wait for cancer to get to stage four in order to seek treatment. The question that I want to address through this Bill is: Can it be detected early and diagnosed?”

“For us to achieve this, primary healthcare workers in Level Three hospitals need to be trained as proposed in the Bill,” he added. 

Dr Nyikal said the treatment of cancer does not have to be expensive if the detection is done at an early stage followed by monitoring and treatment.

The passage of the Bill will mark an important step in addressing the cancer burden in the country as it will mean that cancer will be treated at the basic level contrary to the case currently.

After today’s first reading in the National Assembly, the Bill will be subjected to public participation as required by the Constitution where various stakeholders will give their views on it.

The Committee on Health will then present a report to the House that will inform debate in the second reading.

Since health is a devolved function, it means the Bill will also be considered by the Senate for concurrence before the President assents to it if MPs pass it

In 2018, MPs approved a motion sponsored by then Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru declaring cancer a national disaster and requiring the government to set up a fund to build cancer treatment centres in all 47 counties.