EDITORIAL: Ensure planned cancer centres are well staffed

The Kenyatta National Hospital. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The Kenyatta National Hospital. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The plan to build four new cancer centres across the country at a cost of Sh8 billion is a noble one, but it offers little comfort to long-suffering patients given the notorious track record of poor maintenance, lack of doctors and experts to operate machines in public hospitals.

The most prominent and recent case study is the Sh38 billion county health equipment project mooted by the Jubilee government at the onset of its first term.

The poorly executed project turned into a national shame when the multi-billion shilling equipment could not find housing at county health facilities because they were not planned for.

Worse still, the equipment has had little impact on healthcare especially for the most poor and vulnerable.

The expensive machines are still lying idle in county health centres, most of them for lack of qualified personnel to operate.

Kenyatta National Referral Hospital is still crowded with patients from all across the country seeking treatment for ailments that were to be handed at the county level.
The few Kenyatta Hospital equipment are prone to frequent breakdowns.

Patients, many in their latter stages of chronic illnesses, have to wait on the queue for months on end to get treatment.

Many die in the hospital corridors before receiving treatment. From the very onset, county governors were opposed to the multi-billion shilling equipment plan, terming it an interference with their Constitutional role to run the health docket.

The national government insisted that counties did not have capacity to undertake the massive project, yet it did not prove any better given its shambolic implementation.

Accusations were made touching on the possibility of senior ministry of Health officials holding onto the project for the sole aim of pocketing hefty kickbacks in the procurement contracts. These accusations were validated by the Auditor- General’s queries on the contract payments.

The head of the National Cancer Control Programme at the Ministry of Health, Dr Anne Ng’ang’a, says the Sh8 billion plan should be ready for roll out mid this year.

Hopefully the ministry will have learnt from and fixed the mistakes of the past. It is pointless to spend billions of shillings on white elephants.