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'Aga Khan hospital may treat just 20 cancer patients not 400'

Dr Jackson Orem

The free radiotherapy treatment offer by Aga Khan University hospital to Ugandan cancer patients was misrepresented according to Dr Jackson Orem, the director of Uganda Cancer Institute.

Orem says Aga Khan hospital only offered 400 dosages to Uganda as opposed to 400 patients as presented by health officials to parliament last week.

A team of health officials led by Dr Chris Baryomunsi the Health State Minister, informed the Health Committee of Parliament that Aga Khan hospital offered free radiotherapy treatment to 400 cancer patients. 

The Minister explained that government would meet the transport, feeding and accommodation costs of those selected to benefit from the offer.  

A statement sent to The Observer on Tuesday April 19 read "The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi (AKUH-Nairobi) announced today that it will work with the Government of Uganda to provide as many as 400 cancer patients with free treatment in response to the breakdown of Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine". 

But now Dr Orem says the offer can at best may cover no more than 20 cancer patients.

"The offer of the treatment of Aga Khan is confirmed but the clarification is that they are offering 400 fractions or dosages of radiotherapy not 400 patients to be treated. What that means is that; one patient may take more cycles or may take more fractions of treatment. So that means in all fewer than 400 will be treated. I think that needed to be clarified. Only average maybe about five or six [doses per patient]. What usually happens is that the doctor calculates of the amount of dosage of radiation that a patient needs. It may be above 30 then you divide that in what we call fractions or sessions the patient should have", Orem says.

Orem explained that government has already constituted a team to vet the patients who will benefit from the offer. He said government will give priority to patients whose cancers are in the early stages, since they have greater chances of healing completely to enable them come back and be productive.

Orem is however, non-committal on whether those selected will receive transport and accommodation support from government since board rules require patient to cater for themselves.

"According to how the medical board works, those are things [facilitation] are done by the patients, the individuals. For instance government can give you money for treatment abroad but it is you to kind of think about your accommodation", he said. 

Aga Khan offered the free treatment after the country's only Cobalt-60 radiation machine, used in managing cancer, broke down a fortnight ago.

"Patient-related logistics are being discussed with the relevant authorities. The treatments will be paid for by Aga Khan University’s (AKU) Patient Welfare Programme, which is funded by the hospital and augmented by individual and corporate donors and provides subsidized medical care to needy patients.

The announcement is part of AKU’s commitment to providing high-quality health care to the people of Uganda and to combatting the growth of non-communicable diseases such as cancer in East Africa", the statement from Aga Khan further read. 


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