President Uhuru Kenyatta has unveiled East Africa's first public molecular imaging centre at the Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kiambu County.
The ultra-modern medical facility is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to offer comprehensive cancer management services and is part of the government's efforts to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC), a pillar of Kenya's Big 4 development blueprint.
Speaking at the facility's launch, President Kenyatta said the government had invested in the screening and treatment facility in response to the rising cases of cancer-related deaths in the country.
“We are making these investments in recognition of the fact that cancer is the third leading cause of death in Kenya; and projections show that the burden of the disease will grow by approximately 85 per cent by the year 2030, unless we as a government take bold steps to address the challenges related to this disease,” the President said.
He observed that the greatest bottleneck in cancer management in Kenya has been lack of adequate facilities for early diagnosis and accurate stage grouping, a challenge he said the new facility seeks to resolve.
The President, who was accompanied by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, said the new cancer treatment Centre, which is equipped with a 100 persons hostel facility, will save Kenyans the over Sh10 billion they spent on cancer treatment outside the country annually.
“The Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre Hospitality and Accommodation Centre will ensure that family can stay close to their loved ones receiving treatment here, while also providing accommodation for outpatients from far afield as they await subsequent rounds of treatment; eliminating the need for the long back-and-forth journeys that levy a heavy toll on their health and recovery,” the President said.
On the country's journey towards UHC, the President said the Government was expanding healthcare by equipping health facilities, training more personnel and constructing new facilities as well as reforming the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to offer adequate medical cover for all Kenyans.
“My Administration continues to make remarkable progress in addressing the affordability of healthcare services through repurposing of NHIF. Under this framework, NHIF will cover diagnostic tests at the Integrated Molecular Imaging Centre at KU Hospital,” he said.
The President said last year, 6,451 cancer patients benefited from the NHIF oncology package and urged all Kenyans to sign up with the public health insurer.
“This medical cover will increase access to healthcare services at affordable rates. The NHIF cover already caters for cancer treatment, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and even brachytherapy,” he said.
Alongside provision of adequate screening and treatment facilities, the President said the Government was keen on ensuring improved overall cancer care in the country through appropriate policy reforms such as the cancer control strategy launched in July last year and the proposed national lifestyle modification campaign.
To address breast cancer which is the most prevalent variant in Kenya with an estimated annual incidence rate of 6000 news and 2500 deaths, the President said the government had rolled out an aggressive breast health awareness campaign.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe commended the President for the government's growing investments in the health sector noting that for the first time in Kenya's history, public hospitals were better equipped compared to private healthcare providers.
“The partnership between the public sector and the private sector is now going to be now on a more equal basis. Indeed, this is the first time when we are going to see private hospitals referring their patients to public hospitals,” Mr Kagwe said.
The Chairperson of KUTTRH Board Prof Olive Mugenda said the hospital is keen on providing excellent health services and that it is partnering with various institutions among them University of Manchester in the United Kingdom to offer capacity building and technological support.
“Your Excellency, as a result of the partnership, the University of Manchester will build us a breast cancer centre in line with the breast cancer centre of excellence in Manchester, given the high prevalence of breast cancer disease in our country,” Prof Mugenda said.
Kiambu Governor James Nyoro, his Kisumu counterpart Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o and Murang’a County MP Sabina Chege were among several senior government officials at the event.