Cancer centres will be built in Kisii, Nyeri, Mombasa and Nakuru from July in a project that will later see radiotherapy kits installed in the units, cutting reliance on Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).
Treasury documents tabled in Parliament last week indicate that Sh400 million has been allocated for construction of the centres that will be phased over coming years.
For a start, the centres will start administering chemotherapy and be scaled up later to provide radiotherapy services.
The centres are aimed at cutting travel costs to referral facilities and ease congestion in hospitals like KNH at a time when cancer has emerged a top killer disease.
“This is for establishment of four regional cancer centres in Kisii, Nyeri, Mombasa and Nakuru,” budget documents reveal. “Chemotherapy equipment has already been supplied to three centres.”
Kenya lacks cancer specialists and adequate equipment to tackle the disease, with the few at KNH prone to breakdowns.
Official data shows that cancer is the third biggest killer in Kenya after malaria and pneumonia, with experts warning the rate is set to rise.
Rising cancer cases, especially among the poor, have highlighted the need for equipment and specialist doctors in health units.
Treatment of cancer is either through surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy or a combination of the options.
KNH and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret are the public hospitals handling the procedures.
This has prompted the government to establish cancer units in counties in partnership the World Bank, which is funding a plan to design the hospitals that will be owned and operated by the private sector.
They will be built via the public private partnership model where the government will offer investors land and allow them to operate the centres and charge a fee for recovery of their investments.
Late diagnosis of new cancers and failure to promptly spot recurrences in those surviving the disease contribute to premature deaths in Kenya.
The Health ministry estimates that 70 to 80 percent of the cancers are diagnosed in late stages when the disease has burrowed through major body organs, making it incurable.
In its Globocan 2018 report, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said that 47,887 Kenyans get cancer every year and 32,987 die from the disease.