According to American Cancer Society, more than 100 chemotherapy or chemo drugs are used to treat cancer either alone or in combination with other medicines or treatments. These medicines are very different in their chemical composition, how they are taken, their usefulness in treating specific forms of cancer, and their side effects.
In Kenya, access to chemotherapy is limited due to a poorly functioning market, lack of diagnostic and pathology services as well as small oncology workforce. Most of the patients diagnosed to have cancer also are not able to afford the chemotherapy treatment. It is estimated that costs are between Kshs 10,000 and 82,000 per session at Kenyatta National Hospital for 6 to 8 sessions. At a private health facility, the same treatment goes for Kshs 35,000 and Kshs 500,000.
Another challenge that is progressively deteriorating quality access to chemotherapy is the safe handling and administration of the treatment. Most health workers are not professionally trained and do not have the proper gear which exposes both the health provider and the patient to greater health risks.
In order for patients to have increased accessibility of quality chemotherapy treatment, American Cancer Society, in partnership with Ministry of Health and Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) is working on a project called the Chemo-safe project that seeks to promote safe handling, administration of chemotherapy and quality service provision.
The Chemo safe project that will run for a year focuses on the lifecycle of chemotherapy delivery, in terms of logistics, preparations, administration, and disposal which will scale up the quality of cancer treatment that is safe for the provider and the patient. The project focuses a lot on training the health workers who work directly with the cancer patients in the administration of chemotherapy treatment. “Handling of chemotherapy is very up hazarding in this country; health workers are not properly trained,” commented Dr. Zipporah Ali, Executive Director, KEHPCA during a steering committee meeting held on 5th December 2017.
The committee meeting addressed different challenges faced in the oncology field such us health workers not having the proper gear and minimal knowledge in the administration of chemotherapy treatment. Proposed activities of the project include;
- Development of a hospital-level risk assessment,
- Adaptation and adoption of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) curricula.
- Establish a list of essential and secure supplies in each hospital.
- Establish a cadre of nurse trainers with a training of trainers led by ONS.
- Nurse – trainers lead local training with support from ONS trainers.
Cancer patients deserve quality chemotherapy treatment, therefore this is a great project that will spearhead changes and how we respond to cancer in Kenya.