Confusion after new cancer home fills up

The Uganda Cancer Institute in Mulago National Referral Hospital. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Around 100 cancer patients who are waiting for the next phase of treatment have already relocated to the care home, according to information from the management of the institute

Stranded cancer patients and caretakers, who were ordered to vacate Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) premises following media reports about congestion at the facility, have said they are stuck again because the new care home they were directed to is full.

“There was one of the officials, a lady at the institute, who chased us away. She said nobody should be seen staying outside the facility today,” one frustrated caretaker told Sunday Monitor, adding, “So I carried all my luggage and came here only to find that there is no space. Now I don’t know what to do.”

Another frustrated caretaker said: “I think they have not planned for this. They were rushing us from that side as if there is space here, but this side is already full yet less than half of people have come.”

Around 100 cancer patients who are waiting for the next phase of treatment have already relocated to the care home, according to information from the management of the institute.

The care home, which has two new tents and a dilapidated house in a bushy compound, can accommodate around 100 people. There are, however, 200 patients in need, according to management. The management also said establishing a care home is one of the unfunded priorities. It is unclear whether the caretakers were planned for in the relocation.

The UCI handles more than 60,000 patients per year, meaning many of them do not stay full-time at the facility premises as they access treatment. Not all cancer patients are admitted.

“They didn’t involve us when they were sending those patients to the care home. We have called for a meeting to iron out the issues, but the clear position will come out on Monday,” Mr Dennis Olodi, the acting director of the Uganda Cancer Society, said, adding, “I think it could have been a knee-jerk reaction following the media report [that some cancer patients at the institute were sleeping outside], but we will meet over this.”

He further proceeded to note thus: “Many of those patients have to get their treatment in a few weeks, like three weeks. So they were told [by doctors] to come back to the facility after some weeks, but they preferred to stay around because some of them don’t have money to travel back and return.”

The non-governmental organisations that have for years been accommodating stranded patients said they don’t have enough space and resources to take care of everyone in need. It is not only cancer patients who are affected in their course of treatment.

However, not everyone is stuck. Those who came early like Mr Nixon Odongo got where to stay at the care home.

“I got space for my patient. This place is better than sleeping outside. However, my patient has been vomiting since we came here last night,” Mr Odongo said.

A cancer patient, who was staying outside, was overheard complaining about the heat inside the tent. Each tent can accommodate around 40 patients. Female patients are occupying one tent and the house.

The two tents and the house are located on the upper part of the facility in a place fenced halfway. The place is adjacent to a slum, raising security concerns. There was a security guard at the entrance to the care home.

Dr Jackson Orem, the director of the institute, said the important thing was to first set up the care home. 

“This is not a medical problem, it is a social problem,” he said, adding that they have already relocated 110 persons, many of whom were sleeping outside the facility.

He said 200 people need to be relocated.

“If you come to where the patients used to be, you find that now it is empty. There are two types of people: there are those who genuinely were there, but then there were also those who were hiding around here. But the genuine patients are very happy,” he said when asked about those who are frustrated at the care home.