If a poll was to be conducted today, cancer would most likely rank tops , as the highly discussed topic of the week.
The subject has been on most Kenyans lips especially after Medical Services Minister Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o went public about his fight with prostate cancer.
The argument if I may, have centered on the mixed reactions that were coming through. Some have called him a hero for fighting cancer bravely and having the guts to publicly talk about it. But a majority of Kenyans have viewed this as unfeasible considering that not so many of them can afford to go to the USA in a jiffy to receive world class treatment if diagnosed with cancer.
Of concern to many is how the poor stand to benefit from his disclosure, if they will be able to access cheaper medical care after now and whether or not the government is planning to equip more hospitals or come up with interventions to curb the 21000 annual deaths from late diagnosis and lack of treatment.
Currently, to undergo radiotherapy at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) —one of the two health centres that has equipment, a patient has to part with Sh300 per session. And yet in total one requires at least 32 sessions for the therapy to work. This translates to about Sh9, 600. If we include other check ups in between, transport and accommodation costs as most patients are referred from district clinics. The charges could come to about Sh.15000. The other hospital with radiotherapy facilities is MP Shah Hospital which charges higher and hence unaffordable by most Kenyans.
This is a huge burden for a country whose majority of the population live by less than a dollar a day. But if you ask me, Nyong’o’s ailing could not have come at a better time. This is because he is at the helm of the same ministry that looks at the healthcare concerns of citizens. It has literally marked a wake up call to the dire need for equipment and services for the country’s medical institution. Do not get me wrong here, I am not rejoicing that he suffered prostate cancer, what I am trying to say is that he suffered, was treated and he is well on his way to recovery, but what happens to the other people that for some reason, they are suffering from one cancer or the other and cannot afford treatment or even those yet to be diagnosed?
These are sentiments which many Kenyans including the Medical services minister himself acknowledges and thus have urged Kenyans to contribute to the National Hospital Insurance Fund that could step in to pay part of their healthcare bills. He also plans to establish a cancer foundation while at the same time push parliament to pass the Cancer Control Bill quickly.
This are very good interventions which if coupled with decentralization of healthcare service as entrenched in the constitutions and equipping the same hospitals both in terms of machines and manpower, could go a long way in ensuring Kenyan is cancer free.
But most of all someone needs to come out and educate Kenyans on the very basic things that could help keep cancer at bay – for instance sensitization on healthy eating habits, excising and early treatment. The awareness creating should focus on educating citizens on practicing health lifestyle that are pocket friendly to all. This way, Kenyans will not have to worry about this terminal illness.
Ms Keya writes for Pregnant and Baby Love magazines, both are reproductive health and baby care publications