Following the breakdown of Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine in early April, cancer patients continue to travel to Nairobi under different programmes introduced to save the situation.
Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU) are the latest to intervene, and in a statement on Tuesday, revealed they plan to send seven patients to Kenya for treatment.
The trips are funded under the Road to Care Programme, initiated by Canadian doctor Joda Kuk in 2011 after he saw the huge needs of women with cervical cancer in rural settings during a visit to Hospice Africa Uganda. HAU is a registered charity which cares for seriously ill and dying patients.
The first patients to benefit are Mary Birungi and Mary Gahoire from Mbarara and Hoima respectively who returned this week after completing radiotherapy treatment for cervical cancer . They were the first of a group of seven HAU are sending to the Aga Khan University Hospital for vital treatment.
Two other patients supported by Hospice Africa Uganda under the Road to Care Programme are still in Nairobi undergoing chemo-radiotherapy treatment at the Aga Khan University Hospital and two more are due to be sent this week for the same.
This is separate to the agreement between the Aga Khan University Hospital and the Ministry of Health, through Uganda Cancer Institute, to provide free radiotherapy treatment for 400 cancer patients.
Hospice to the rescue
After Uganda’s only radiotherapy machine broke down beyond repair it was agreed to use the programme to send HAU patients to Nairobi for treatment.
According to the HAU Chief Executive Director Dr Eddie Mwebesa, cervical cancer patients make up a large number of those on the HAU programme and this is the most common cancer seen among women referred for palliative care.
“Since the breakdown of the radiotherapy machine hundreds of patients in Uganda have been left without treatment. The Road to Care Programme has proven very important. We are delighted that seven of our patients are to be treated in Nairobi. While it is a small number in the bigger scheme of things we are happen that they have been given hope.”
Patients say they are now okay
The two patients who returned this week from Kenya spoke of the difference the radiotherapy has made to their lives. They both spent a total of 10 weeks in Nairobi. They travelled by road from Uganda to the Kenyan capital and stayed in a house with carers funded by the Road to Care Programme.
Mary Birungi, a mother of two from Mbarara said: “They worked on us very well. Now I am okay, I don’t feel any pain and I am looking forward to full recovery and going back to work again.”
Mary Gahoire said: “When I first got to know I had stage II cancer, I became so worried and didn’t know I would be able to get the required treatment because I didn’t have the money. I am so glad that I got this opportunity. I am now well”
Adding: “I thank Hospice (Africa Uganda) so much for sponsoring our treatment, travel and stay in Nairobi. I pray that they continue with this kind of support to help other women suffering from cancer”
Mary Birungi and Gahoire will still have to do an important MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test after 12 weeks to confirm that the cancer has been successfully treated. MRI test is available in Mulago and other major hospitals in Uganda.
Katusabe Roselight, the Palliative Care nurse who has been coordinating the Road to Care programme said: “Both women have responded well to the treatments with mild side effects that have been well managed. We shall continue to monitor their conditions and ensure that they fully recover.”