Kampala- The Aga Khan University Hospital yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Health through Uganda Cancer Institute to formalise free radiotherapy treatment for 400 cancer patients.
The development follows an earlier commitment announced by the Nairobi-based hospital to help save the lives of cancer patients in need while the government of Uganda works to re-establish its radiation therapy capacity.
Uganda’s only Cobalt 60 radiotherapy machine broke down beyond repair in April and government is still in the process of importing a new machine.
Speaking at the agreement-signing ceremony held at the Ministry of Health headquarters yesterday, the director UCI, Dr Jackson Orem, said patients will be transported to Nairobi by road using two vans provided by the ministry.
“We are glad that all outstanding issues pertaining to the clinical, administrative and financial aspects of this partnership have now been ironed out and a clear procedure will be followed to ensure that Ugandan patients receive treatment from the Aga Khan University Hospital,” Dr Orem said, without giving a specific date when the first batch of patients will be transported.
He added that accommodation and other patient support services are being organised by the Uganda High Commission in Nairobi and about 20 cancer patients, who have so far been approved by the tumor board will travel for treatment.
The chief executive officer of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Mr Shawn Bolouki, emphasised the university’s commitment to increasing access to specialised care to those in need through public private partnerships with other institutions such as the Uganda Cancer Institute.
“The citizens of Uganda do not have to travel overseas to access high quality healthcare as these services are available here in our region,” Mr Bolouki said.
The vice president and chief finance officer at the Aga Khan University, Mr Al-Karim Haji, said with plans of establishing Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala underway, Ugandans will no longer need to leave the country to receive world class healthcare.
“We appreciate the support, encouragement and confidence of the government of Uganda to establish a teaching hospital in Kampala,” he said.
The MoU was signed in the presence of the under secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr Ronald Segawa, and Mr Amin Mawji, the newly-appointed Diplomatic Representative of Aga Khan Development Network in Uganda.
In April, when the Aga Khan University Hospital announced the offer of treatment, there was lack of clarity on what the offer entailed. Health ministry officials, led by then State minister of Health, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, had earlier informed Parliament that the offer would cater for 400 patients, Dr Orem in an exclusive interview, told Saturday Monitor that the offer actually catered for 400 dozes and not 400 patients. However, yesterday’s ceremony clarified the matter.
Who will travel
Dr Henry Ddungu, the chairman of the Radiation Oncology Clinical Needs Evaluation Committee (ROCNEC), said only tumor patients with chances of survival will be transported to Nairobi for radiotherapy treatment . He cited tumor cancers such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and kidney cancer in children.
Asked whether it is safe to transport patients by road, Dr Ddungu said all patients are in a functional stable condition, following a clinical assessment .
He, however, said for any unstable patients, an ambulance will be provided.
About 2,000 cancer patients require radiotherapy treatment in Uganda every year.