Officials at Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) have said a huge number of patients from Kenya and other foreign countries are flocking the facility for care as government waives payment.
Information from the country’s biggest care centre indicates that at least 10% of the 65,000 patients handled at the Kampala-based facility last year were foreigners.
This comes amid a report from the management of the institute that patients are spending long hours to access services because of the limited facilities compared to the number of patients.
Ms Christine Namulindwa, the UCI spokesperson, in an interview with this newspaper last week, attributed the inflow of foreign patients to better quality care and affordability of services at the institute.
“We have many Kenyans coming for our services. The [TrueBeam] linear accelerator machine that we have, no other country in the region has it, even Kenya doesn’t have it. That technology is the first of its kind in the region,” she said.
Ms Namulindwa said the government spent $4 million (Shs14b) on the TrueBeam cancer machine that was installed in 2020.
She said they have three radiotherapy machines that are being used to treat cancer.
TrueBeam radiotherapy device consists of two main components, a beam-producing system for producing photon, electron, and diagnostic X-ray radiation, and a control panel.
According to UCI specialists, the TrueBeam radiotherapy system helps patients to heal in fewer sessions; one to five compared to 20 to 40 sessions of conventional radiation therapy (dependent upon the type of tumour). The specialists say shorter sessions lower the risk of side effects in patients.
The UCI spokesperson also said they are offering free care unlike in other countries in the region.
“In Kenya, to get the radiotherapy, you need Shs15m but in Uganda, we don’t charge you for the machine, in each fraction of radiotherapy, we only charge you Shs20,000 which is a maintenance fee,” Ms Namulindwa said.
We couldn’t verify the charges in Kenya.
Ms Prosssy Kaitesi, an outpatient, who was at the UCI radiotherapy department last Thursday at 2pm, said she had spent eight hours minus seeing a doctor.
“I came here at 6am but I have not yet seen a doctor. I will continue waiting,” she said. The head of the radiotherapy department, Dr Daniel Kanyike, said patients should wait for services patiently.
“We follow processes here. It’s not like coming and seeing a doctor. The processes take time,” he said.
The UCI director, Dr Jackson Orem, said earlier that a regional centre of excellence is being established at UCI to increase access to quality cancer care.