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KNH set to build 62-bed hostel for cancer patients

September 26th, 2016 2 min read

A Sh150 million hostel will be built at Kenyatta National Hospital next year for cancer patients who often sleep in the corridors as they wait for tests, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The 62-bed three-storey hostel, which will have a cancer information centre and a place for patients to rest, will be built with support from the American Cancer Society.

More than 3,000 new cancer patients begin treatment each year at the hospital.

Cancer treatment, which is offered at a subsided rate at the public hospital, is an outpatient service, making it difficult for most patients who are referred from counties such as Mombasa, Nakuru, Malindi or Machakos.

With no accommodation at the hospital, the patients have no option but to sleep in the corridors and wake up early to queue for treatment, which is on a first come-first-served basis.

Some have been at the hospital for days and others weeks.

But for Mr Nelson Wilfred Kituli, 62, a lung cancer patient, the cold corridors are not for him. He has learnt to spread thin the money he was paid after selling his only piece of land in Matuu.

He spends Sh500 a day for a room in a lodge in Kasarani with his wife and what is left is for his treatment. He requires 25 chemotherapy sessions, meaning he will be around for about a month.

He has paid for 21 sessions at Sh500 each yet he has a National Hospital Insurance Fund card that covers cancer treatment. But, unfortunately, like most other patients at KNH, he was not aware of this.

The rates for radiotherapy have now been increased to Sh1,000 for non-NHIF members and Sh3,600 for NHIF members.

“Sometimes I cannot afford it and I have to stop treatment,” Mr Kituli told the Daily Nation.

Not far from him are more patients whose backs have become stiff from sleeping on the hard cold corridors because they cannot afford accommodation outside the hospital.


KNH’s Pain and Palliative Care Unit head Esther Cege Munyoro said: “Some of these patients are coming to Nairobi for the first time and have heard countless stories of how unsafe it is. For fear of losing their treatment money, they put up with the cold and feel safer in the KNH premises.”

Dr Munyoro says enterprising landlords are cashing in on the situation.

“Some patients find rooms in Kibera from where they can reach the hospital early,” she said.

Some patients are hosted by relatives while others like Ms Shillingi Jumwa and her aunt from Malindi were offered room by a well-wisher in Ngumo, off Ngong’ Road.

“If it were not for the help, I would have died because the cancer was progressing too fast and I was in so much pain. We do not know any other place in Nairobi except the hospital and where we are staying,” said Ms Jumwa.

But accommodation and transport are just a few of the many problems that arise from seeking treatment.

Most patients come alone because of the financial burden of bringing an escort along or because they are abandoned by relatives and spouses.

This is evident in the radiotherapy lobby where twisting queues of patients waiting for treatment sit quietly, each with their own thoughts.

Occasionally, a pastor preaches to them. He reads from the Bible and each word resonates with the audience who either nod their heads or murmur softly in agreement.

The pastor also leads them in songs that call for hope and thanksgiving.