Third Eye

Address the plight of dying cancer patients

Friday, January 29th, 2021 00:00 |
Cancer patients at the Cancer centre in Coast General Hospital in Mombasa undergoing treatment sessions. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

One of the sobering realities of the Covid-19 pandemic is the exposure that Kenya has a weak health system.

Hospitals, especially in rural counties, continue to be poorly equipped, suffer frequent shortage of drugs and personnel.

Indeed, some of the facilities bought essential equipment as a direct response to the pandemic which continues to ravage the country. 

With the reality of the virus hitting home, Kenyans have continued to celebrate frontline health workers who have made huge sacrifices to protect lives.

However, the ongoing strike by some medics which has locked thousands of patients out of hospital and led to loss of lives, threatens to put a stain on the well-deserved accolades.

Some of the biggest casualties of the ongoing strike are patients with terminal illnesses such as cancer and kidney-related ailments whose conditions require constant attention.    

According to data from the Ministry of Health, Kenya records 30,000 new cases of cancer every year, out of which 78 per cent succumb to the killer disease. This means the country loses about 23,000 people annually. 

That is why we are disturbed by reports that 14 cancer patients who had been undergoing chemotherapy in one of the local hospitals died in the last two months due to lack of treatment, as a result the nurses’ strike.

Another died at home after he was turned away from hospital by striking workers.

The medical workers downed their tools over complaints about allowances, delayed promotions and lack of protective gear in the war against Covid-19.

While some devolved units reached an agreement that saw health workers return to work, a standoff in many of the regions has aggravated the situation.  

While we empathise with the plight of health workers, we call for sobriety, dialogue and reason to prevail among the concerned parties to ensure normalcy returns.

There should also be a deep conversation on claims that some medics could be exploiting an already grave situation to improve their fortunes.

It should be emphasised that medics take an oath to protect lives, but constant conflicts about their remuneration continue to undermine their professionalism.

The country has been treated to unfortunate scenes where expectant mothers have been left to their own devices, patients lined up for surgery turned away while others have been abandoned to die due to conflicts over pay.

This sad state of affairs must be addressed urgently because the sanctity of life cannot be measured by financial returns on employment.

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