County, Russian firm to partner in war on cancer

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2023 02:30 | By
County, Russian firm to partner in war on cancer
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital. PHOTO/Print

Kisumu County has opened talks with a Russian company to allow it to build and operate a cancer treatment centre at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH).

A delegation from the county, led by Deputy Governor Mathews Owili has been holding talks with representatives of the Medical Institute Berezin Sergey (MIBS) before signing a Memorandum of Understanding within the next three months.

“The journey started last year,” Dr Gregory Ganda, the County Executive for medical services, public health and sanitation told People Daily in an exclusive interview in St Petersburg after several county officials visited the MIBS hospitals and other facilities to assess their capability as part of their due diligence checks.

“The idea is to stop Kenyans from seeking treatment abroad,” said Owili, noting that cancer cases were high in Kisumu.

According to the Health and Demographic Survey, 2022, Kisumu County had one of the highest levels of respondents who told the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) that they had been examined for either breast or cervical cancer. Of the women interviewed for the survey, 12 per cent of those aged between 15 and 49 said they had undergone a breast cancer examination. This was marginally lower than neighbouring Homa Bay County (14 per cent) but significantly higher than Siaya County (four per cent).

Another 23 per cent said they had been examined for cervical cancer, again, slightly lower than Homa Bay at 24 per cent but higher than Siaya at 17 per cent.

“Each county requires at least one cancer treatment centre,” Dr Gonda said. However, setting up one is not only costly but also requires long-term investment, which most counties cannot afford due to the high capital outlay required. This informed Kisumu's decision to partner with MIBS, one of the leading providers of cancer treatment services in Russia.

Training of staff

The MoU will include training local staff on how to conduct screening and operate the equipment with a view to improving their ability to handle cancer cases in the long term.

Kisumu refers 2,000 patients to the general hospital in Nakuru, the referral hospital in Eldoret and Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral & Research Hospital (KUTRRH) cancer treatment centre annually.

“Most of these patients are poor,” said Dr Ganda, underlining why Kisumu has taken the initiative to build and operate a cancer treatment to offer affordable services to patients from the county.

“We are trying to make partnerships that work,” said George Okong’o, the CEC for Finance, Economic Planning and ICT. “To do this, we have to have a firm foundation in legislation because this is a long-term project.”

MIBS, according to Pritt Emrith, its CEO in charge of international partnerships, is the only privately owned company in Russia that offers proton therapy in the treatment of cancer. This is one of the cutting edge technologies in the market and only three hospitals in Russia offer similar treatment, the other two being government owned.

“Construction is about to start for a treatment and diagnostic centre and full services should be available in three years,” Emrith said.

Kenya is MIBS first stop in Africa and besides Jaramogi, the company is also in talks for a similar partnership with a private hospital in Nairobi.

“You need good diagnostics for good treatment,” he said, explaining why Kenyan personnel who will work in the centres will be trained in Russia.

Asked why the county was going into the public-private partnership, Deputy Governor Owili said: “Cancer treatment is expensive and budgets are not sufficient in devolved units.”

If executed as planned, the buildings will be completed in one year while the equipment will be installed in the second year, meaning that the proposed centre will start operations in the third year.

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