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Lobbyists want comprehensive NHIF cover for all cancer cases

NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 2 – Health Lobbyists are now urging the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) to consider providing a comprehensive cover for all types of cancer in the wake of increased cases ravaging the country.

According to the Kenyan Network of Cancer (KENCO) and the Kenya Society of Hematology and Oncology ( KESHO), this will provide the necessary support and care needed by cancer patients.

Kenyan Network of Cancer chairperson Catherine Wachira said this will further help those affected be able to afford the needed medication.

“There is a significant out of pocket spending related to laboratory tests, scans and ex-rays. Screening tests are also not covered by the fund,” she added.

The sentiments follow the deaths of Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso and Kibra Member of Parliament Ken Okoth both of whom succumbed to cancer after seeking treatment abroad.

It is estimated that Kenya records 84,000 new cancer cases every year and 33,000 cancer-related deaths annually translating to 90 deaths every day or 4 deaths every hour.

KENCO and KESHO said that there is a very well laid out strategy to help reduce the scourge outlining the 5 main pillars namely: Early detection, prevention and screening; diagnosis and registration; treatment, Palliative care and survivorship; coordination, partnership and financing; and monitoring, evaluation and research which will need significant funding to implement.

The organisations have urged the government to allocate funds for the new strategy.

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Officials from the two organizations also added that some of the risk factors to cancer will require legislative support, including regulation of advertisement of alcohol, tobacco products, sugar sweetened beverages and unhealthy foods to children as well as increased taxation on alcohol and tobacco, with the aim of reducing general consumption.

The Kenya society of Hematology and Oncology Chairperson Satna Mwanzi has called on the Ministry of Health to protect cancer patients from exploitation by an unregulated food supplements industry as well as medical tourism.

“Regulation of prices of cancer drugs in the private sector should be pegged on the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA) prices and monitored by the National cancer institute of Kenya” Satna said.

Though the country has made progress in training of cancer specialists (doctors and nurses) with the University of Nairobi, Aga Khan University and Moi Teaching and Referral hospital graduating oncologists and oncology nurses, the numbers are still very low.

[This article was authored by Juliet Omelo]

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