Multibillion construction of northern Uganda regional cancer institute launched

GULU – Prime Minister Robinah Nabanja has launched the multibillion construction of Northern Uganda Regional Cancer Institute.

The multibillion health facility which will be established on a four and half hectares of land in Koro Kal worth 7.5 million Euros nearly Shs 34.5 billion was launched on Friday 13th August, 2021.

Nabanja explained that the government is training more personnel to work in the facility which is expected to be complete in 12 months according to the project timeframe.

She however, revealed that the government has plans of establishing five Regional Cancer Institutes by 2026 to decongest the National Cancer Institute at Mulago Hospital.

The construction which started in Northern Uganda will extend to Mbale in Eastern Uganda, Arua in West Nile and Mbarara to serve the population in Western Uganda in the subsequent years.

“We have a very high burden of treating cancers in this country and we don’t expect any form of shoddy work, substandard work and corruption in the project,” Nabanja warned.

The Minister of State for Health-General Duties Anita Kawooya noted that the specialized facility in the region is an extension of the health care services to the vulnerable people.

She however revealed that, in every 1,000 Ugandans, 350 are battling with different cancers, a situation she described as burdensome to both the government and the patients.

Anita further disclosed that the government is procuring new machines for diagnosis and treatment for installation at Mulago National Cancer Institute.

“The East African States have resolved that Uganda takes lead in Cancer treatment for excellence and we are building on the structures, personnel and the equipment to meet the standard,” Kawooya added.

The Executive Director, Mulago National Cancer Institute, Jackson Orem noted that the plan for the establishment of the regional institute is in line with the National Development Plan III for quality health care to Ugandans.

He revealed that 80% of the patients in Uganda die due late diagnosis, limited quality care adding that cancer treatments will soon be decentralised at the lower health facilities.

Orem further explained that the Ugandan government signed a five year contract with the Austrian government in November last year for the construction of five cancer regional institutes.

The contract will be managed by the AME International, an Austrian Medical Engineering Firm.

The Head of the Medical Engineering and the Project Manager Sebastian Langfelder-Hain pledged to complete the facility in the next 12 months and hand it over to the government.

“The Austrian government will maintain its strong ties with the Ugandan government not only in the cancer treatment but also in the provision of other health care services,” Sebastian pledged to the Prime Minister on Friday during the groundbreaking ceremony.

However, cancer is among the disease burdens affecting Northern Uganda while the majority of the patients who are referred to Mulago National Cancer Institute often fail to reach the facility due to lack of transport and cost of feeding while admitted.

Barely a year ago, Pakia Primary School, Koch Lii Sub County in Nwoya district lost one of its primary seven candidates to cancer.

The deceased was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphatic system at St. Mary Hospital Lacor, the most common type in children and was referred to Mulago National Cancer Institute for specialised treatment.

Her single mother Evelyn Akello says the hospital had requested her to raise Shs 700,000 for referral to Mulago Hospital, an amount she could not afford since her small-scale business collapsed due to Covid-19 pandemic.

As the family struggled to look for the money, some well-wishers contributed the money to cover the cost and she was rushed to Mulago Hospital in advanced stages of cancer and later brought back home where she passed on and was laid to rest in her village in Koch Lii.

According to the 2020 record from Gulu Cancer Registry, more than 1, 320 people in the four Districts of Gulu, Amuru, Omoro and Nwoya were diagnosed with cancers.

The most predominant cancer infections in children in the region are cancer of the lymphatic system that accounts for 80% followed by cervical cancer at 58% and prostate cancer at 20%.

Meanwhile, at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, at least 5 people seek health care services at the hospital with advanced cancer conditions on a monthly basis according to a hospital report.

Omoro District Chairman, Douglas Peter Okao disclosed in an interview with theCooperator that the district refers at least five cancer patients to Mulago National Cancer Institute every month and has urged the government to invest in early cancer screening.

Gulu City Woman Member of Parliament, Betty Aol Ocan noted that lack of specialised treatments in Northern Uganda have affected the responses to the emerging health situations in the region which is battling a number of chronic illnesses.

Aol urged the government to also consider establishing the heart institute in the region to address the related illnesses of respiratory diseases.

“We have been told that the cancer treatment will be offered free to our people but let me pray that what is being said will be free to the vulnerable community in the region,” Aol added.

Cancer is characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissues. It often has the ability to spread throughout your body according to the medical specialists.

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