Aga Khan ready to treat 400 Ugandan cancer patients after machine breakdown

Tuesday April 19 2016

A physicist administers radiotherapy treatment

A physicist administers radiotherapy treatment to a cancer patient at Mulago hospital using theold Cobalt 60 machine bought 21 years ago. File photo 

By Monitor Reporter

The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi (AKUH-Nairobi) announced Tuesday that it will work with the Ugandan government to provide as many as 400 cancer patients with free treatment in response to the breakdown of Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine.

“We are committed to working with the Government of Uganda to help save the lives of cancer patients in need of treatment while it works to reestablish its radiation therapy capacity,” said AKUH-Nairobi Chief Executive Officer Shawn Bolouki.
In a statement, Bolouki added, “Our values as an institution dictate nothing less. While we can only treat a small fraction of those requiring care, given our resources and the tremendous need that exists, we will do all we can to help, and we encourage others to follow our lead.”

The announcement comes just days after Ugandan government said only 400 out of the 17,000 cancer patients, who need radiotherapy care, will be airlifted to Kenya for treatment.
State minister for Health, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, told Parliament on April 14 that The Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi had offered to assist only 400 Ugandans who need radiotherapy care as government procures a bunker for a new machine.
The minister, however, said the doctors at the Uganda Cancer Institute will assess the 400 patients to ensure that those who are badly off are the ones who benefit.
This explanation, however, provoked a barrage of responses on the floor as members demanded to know whether the minister was condemning others (16,660) to death.

According to Bolouki, patient-related logistics are being discussed with the relevant authorities. “The treatments will be paid for by Aga Khan University’s (AKU) Patient Welfare Programme, which is funded by the hospital and augmented by individual and corporate donors and provides subsidized medical care to needy patients,” Bolouki explained.
He said the announcement is part of AKU’s commitment to providing high-quality health care to the people of Uganda and to combatting the growth of non-communicable diseases such as cancer in East Africa.

In December, His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of AKU, and Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni announced plans to build a new Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala (AKUH-Kampala). The first phase of construction is expected to be completed in 2020.
This is the second time that AKUH-Nairobi has offered such assistance to cancer patients. Last year, it provided free radiation therapy to Kenyan patients, including children, after the breakdown of radiotherapy machines at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

AKUH-Nairobi’s Heart and Cancer Centre, which was inaugurated in 2011, is the first centre of its kind in East Africa. With two radiotherapy units and six radiation oncologists, it provides a wide range of cancer care that meets international standards.