Nanyuki Teaching and Referral Hospital (NTRH) is located in the cosmopolitan Laikipia County. It has the highest workload in the region compared to its physical capacity. It is a Level 4 hospital that serves over 50,000 patients in a quarter. The cancer clinic was launched on 27th October 2020 by the County First Ladies’ Association. The clinic will ease the cost of treatment for patients living with cancer in Laikipia and strengthen the country’s healthcare system in dealing with Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs).

In the spirit of Universal Health Coverage, the government of Kenya is committed to providing accessible, affordable, quality, and equitable health care for all without predisposing them to financial hardship. Like other health functions, cancer care is delivered in the context of a devolved system of governance established by the Constitution of Kenya 2010 with two levels of government.

In Kenya, cancer is estimated to be the second leading cause of NCD related deaths after cardiovascular diseases and accounting for 7% of overall national mortality. (World Health Organization (WHO), 2014).

The event was graced by Laikipia County Governor H. E. Ndiritu Muriithi. There were guests from the Department of Health Services, and the County government of Laikipia. The County First Ladies’ Association was well represented among other distinguished guests. There were many key points raised. The journey it took to get here was told by the speakers.

“We will provide chemotherapy and cancer screening in this facility. We will be dealing with Non-communicable diseases (NCDs). We need to expand the clinic a little bit. We hope to have a C T scan, MRI, and oncologists in Nanyuki.” Dr. Donald Mogoi – Chief Officer, Health Services.

“We are here to combat this menace called cancer. It is taking more lives than COVID19. We are here to give power back to the people. Early detection saves lives. We are setting up cancer clinics. This is the biggest contribution we can make to this nation. This is the sixth facility we have launched and we hope to set up 8 by the end of the year.” H. E Dorothy Nyong’o – Africa Cancer Foundation, Managing Trustee, and Founder.

H. E. Hon Nderitu Muriithi, Governor, Laikipia County

“The empower clinic is inside the hospital complex and it was finished in a short time. We don’t have very good data in this country on cancer. We have had about 263 cases of breast and cervical cancer diagnosed in this hospital. That is from 1st January 2020 to date. In Laikipia, the number of NCDs cases such as diabetes and hypertension has doubled in 3 years. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is important to residents in Laikipia County. We have been making huge investments in UHC here in Laikipia.”

“I went for a pap smear and I was advised I needed to remove the uterus. It was stage 2 cancer. The operation was successful. Now we have a facility here in Laikipia. Many patients will not go through what I went through. I had to leave my home in Laikipia County and travel hundreds of kilometres to Mombasa for treatment. Treatment and other costs I had to meet were expensive.” Lucy Wanjohi – Cancer Survivor.

“I had to travel from Nyeri County to the Capital City of Nairobi for treatment. I was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). This was a stretch and it was not convenient. Cancer patients should not travel far and wide to find treatment in this country. This clinic will help the community living here not to go through the trouble I went through.” Peter Macharia – Cancer Survivor.

Maria Mbeneka – Chair County First Ladies’ Association (CFLA)

“Health workers have been working in difficult times. They are resilient. With COVID-19, wages have been low but they still show up. I want to be accountable to the people of Laikipia County. That is why I do what I do and get involved in working with the community. God bless Laikipia County.” H. E. Maria Mbeneka – Chair County First Ladies’ Association (CFLA).

The palliative care team at NTRH played a critical role in making the event successful. They helped in making arrangements for the launch. In addition, they facilitated the painting of the departments and rooms in the empower cancer clinic. “Cancer patients will benefit, the care and travelling to far places for treatment will not be necessary. I facilitated the attendance of the Nanyuki cancer support group and the cancer awareness volunteers.” Jane Matimu – Palliative Care Nurse (pictured left).

Cancer centers have worked very hard to establish palliative and supportive services to better meet the needs of the whole patient. It’s sobering to hear that such services are not readily accessible at many centers. However, it provides an opportunity for cancer centers to empower their front-line staff, as well as the oncology care team, through education and training so that the entire enterprise has a common understanding of palliative care and how to access it.

The rise of Non- Communicable diseases in Kenya and throughout the world poses a threat to human health and a drain to the economy. The journey and fight continue.

Palliative care services play a critical role in oncology care, it focuses on both the patient and their families and addresses physical, social, spiritual, and psychological aspects. These services aim at improving the quality of life and reduce suffering. Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) is the umbrella body for palliative care providers in the country. KEHPCA has supported Nanyuki Teaching and Referral Hospital to establish palliative care services within the facility. The association has also partnered with the Laikipia Palliative Care Center and Nanyuki Cancer Support Group to promote access to palliative care services and create awareness. Palliative care services are not limited to cancer but also caters to other conditions that pose serious health-related suffering.  KEHPCA will continue engaging the Ministry of Health, county governments, and other stakeholders to ensure palliative care is integrated into the health care system and Universal Health Coverage.