By Rene Washington
Cancer survivors in Mt Kenya region have called on the National Assembly to pass a motion that will compel the government to pay medical bills for patients with terminal illnesses.
The survivors want the government to offer free treatment for patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy in order to lower mortality rate.
This comes after the Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter proposal through the Medical Fund Bill that will make it mandatory for government to fully finance treatment for cancer, heart and kidney patients.
The cancer survivors also urged the government to zero rate prosthesis products for the patients who undergo chemotherapy and mastectomy.
“The government should stop taxing prosthesis for cancer and treating them like cosmetics,” said Ms Eliza Njeri founder of the Slopes Cancer Awareness Network (Scan) noting that the average cost of a breast prosthesis is between Sh30, 000 and Sh40, 000.
Josephine Sitawa, a survivor, said they suffer stigma while trying to adjust to the society after undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
“There is a bias in how we are treated back at home. People do not want to be associated with us. Some laugh at our baldness and sagging breasts,” she said.
The cancer patients drawn from Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Murang’a, and Laikipia counties, converged in Nyeri under a network of cancer organizations.
They said patients have been grappling with high cost of treatment in the country, adding that the government should include all cancer treatment under the national insurance cover.
Ms Bilha Waka, representing the Kenya Cancer Association, said incorporating cancer treatment in the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) would help the government achieve Universal Health Coverage.
Under NHIF, patients are able to finance diagnosis and treatment.
However, the insurance package offers patients undergoing chemotherapy a cover of Sh25, 000 per session, the survivors said there are limitations in the number of times patients can use it for treatment.
A chemotherapy session at the Kenyatta National Hospital costs Sh80, 000.
“All sessions are very expensive and we have patients going for more than 16 sessions. To achieve UHC, the government needs to have a strategy that can relieve families of the financial burden of treating cancer,” she said.
Cancer is one of the leading cause of deaths in the country and statistics adduced by the association indicate that at least 5, 000 women die annually from breast cancer followed by cervical cancer.
According to the Kenya Economic Survey 2018, cancer is the third leading cause of deaths in the country, with 16,953 deaths recorded in 2017, compared to 15, 762 deaths the previous year.
“These are two types of cancer that can be self-diagnosed but we are losing lives because there is a missing link between the population and the agencies supposed to create awareness,” added Ms Waka.