More than 200 cancer patients have been treated in Kenyan since the year began, says Health CS Kagwe

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe presented a positive outlook for the health sector when he appeared before the senate committee on health.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee via a virtual link, alongside Chief Administrative Secretary Dr. Mercy Mwangangi and other senior officials from the ministry of health, Kagwe said the government has instituted a host of reforms aimed at revolutionising the country’s healthcare care delivery.

He said the government has identified priority areas, based on the country’s disease burden, and developed targeted interventions to deal with emerging challenges. Responding to a question by Senator Dr Getrude Musuruve on the state of healthcare services for cancer patients in public health facilities, the CS said the country has established world-class infrastructure to better deal with the disease.

“If there is an area, we can be proud of as a country, it is the area of cancer in terms of what we have begun to do” observed the CS. “Since January of this year, we have treated over 200 people who would otherwise have gone to India were it not for the fact that we have the integrated molecular centre at KUTRRH.

This is the first time ever that we have replaced the issue of going to India with people actually being treated here.” Added the health CS.

He said the government is engaging foreign governments, state and non-state actors to enhance the capacity of the country’s healthcare workers in an effort to improve cancer treatment and related services.

“In an arrangement, we have between KUTRH, Kisii university and the Christie institute in the UK, we believe that we are going to increase exponentially the number of skilled personnel.” He told the committee.

Besides the push to redesign the curriculum of health professionals to respond to technological advancements and changing health care needs, Kagwe said the cancer taskforce which is mandated with reviewing the institutional, policy and legal framework for cancer management

in the country, is expected to within the next one month come up with a comprehensive structure of how cancer is going to be managed in Kenya.

While presenting a statement on the lack of a substantive Director-General for health at the ministry as requested by Senator Samson Cherarkey, Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi said the ministry has already established the position in the new structure through a revised organisational structure and staff establishment which has since been submitted to the Public Service Commission for concurrence.

“The process of appointing a substantive office holder will commence immediately upon receiving formal communication from the public service commission on the improved structure and staff establishment,” explained Mwangangi.

Responding to questions by senator Sylvia Kasanga and senator Isaac Mwaura on the state of mental health in the country in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health CS said the country is now better positioned to deal with the challenge.

The health CS said the Kenyan government is collaborating with Group San Donato, the largest hospital group in Europe, to build a facility that is projected to be the cornerstone of national mental health reforms.

The mental health centre of excellence, according to Kagwe, will be the focal point and driver in organizing the new national mental care model and will double up as a national education and training hub for mental health, providing specialised post-graduate and professional training for multiple professional specialisations and disciplines in mental health.

The country has witnessed a rise in the number of mental disorders in recent years with statistics indicating that approximately 20-25 percent of outpatients seeking primary healthcare presents symptoms of mental illness.

A task force on mental health, which was inaugurated in December 2019, recommended a raft of measures including declaring mental health a national emergency as well as the establishment of a mental health commission and happiness, to advise, coordinate and continuously monitor the status of mental health and report on the annual National Happiness Index.

The ministry of health has already developed a mental health policy (2015-2030) as well as unveiled the quality rights initiative that seeks to improve access to quality mental health services and promote the rights of people with mental health conditions as the country seeks to address the burden of mental health conditions.

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