Health CS opposes change to Cancer Act to provide free care

October 23, 2015 2:49 pm
"Provision of free cancer diagnosis and treatment is not a sustainable option," he said.
“Provision of free cancer diagnosis and treatment is not a sustainable option,” he said.

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 23 – Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia says the ministry does not support the proposed amendment to the Cancer Prevention and Control Act 2012 to provide free cancer diagnosis and treatment.

He said the proposals by a petitioner Solomon Muriungi Mburung’a were not economically viable.

“Provision of free cancer diagnosis and treatment is not a sustainable option,” he said.

Speaking during a meeting with the National Assembly Health Committee, Macharia instead urged Kenyans to join the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme to manage cancer treatment even as the government worked to reduce the costs.

He said the scheme would cover expenses of cancer diagnosis and treatment thereby making treatment more affordable and accessible.

He however outlined the government’s commitment to ensure more Kenyans can access treatment, stating that they were boosting outreach oncology services provided by the two referral hospitals, the Kenyatta National Hospital and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.

“We are also constructing a cancer centre at Kisii Level 5 hospital, a loan agreement has been signed to this effect for the construction of the centre,” he told the committee.

He also stated that all facilities in counties which had subscribed to the medical equipment scheme will be able to screen, diagnose and manage cancer since some of the equipment supplied had the capacity of managing the disease.

“Cancer centres will be established in Nyeri, Mombasa and Kisumu and we will also upgrade the existing centres at KNH and MTRH,” he added.

The committee chaired by Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai also sought Macharia’s comment on a proposal by the petitioner seeking to have all women who have undergone mastectomy to be provided with prosthesis (artificial breasts).

The CS insisted the ministry’s priority was on prevention, early detection and treatment of cancer saying those who will have subscribed to UHC will be able to access services such as getting the artificial breasts.

The petitioner has also proposed a tax exemption of all cancer patients and survivors and also introduction of a cancer course in secondary schools to create awareness on causes, consequences and prevention.

“Exempting cancer patients from payment of income tax may not be justifiable as it will set a precedent for similar demands from other people with chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney failure,” said Macharia.

He however said cancer treatment in public hospitals had been subsidised using tax revenue.

He also noted that the Ministry of Health Cancer Strategy 2012-16 advocated for awareness in all segments of society and which meant even school going would be among those targeted.

The petitioner also wanted the use of the word cancer in reference to negative scenarios and situations to be discouraged as it was discriminating against those suffering from it something the ministry said was false.


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