Christine Namulindwa, a Public Relations Officer at the Institute says the idea of having Cancer homes was born out of that need since the institute can’t house all those due to the overwhelming number of patients that they receive.
Agnes Emujong battles Kaposi’s
sarcoma, a type of cancer that usually affects people living with HIV. The
disease has made her develop large protruding tumors on the nose and eye areas
that have almost shrunk her face.
Among the five that Uganda Radio
Network approached as they begged drivers stuck in evening traffic jam for help
on Thursday evening, she offered to share her cancer treatment story through a
colleague who stuttered a few sentences in English.
Her next treatment appointment at
the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) is scheduled for March. But owing to high
transport fares, going back to Moroto wasn’t an option so she chose to stay
back. Luckily she was given shelter by a cancer home that she is hesitant to
mention. She resorted to begging for food after the package she came with in
December got finished, she says.
Like Emujong, many cancer
patients from the countryside have had to find a residence in Kampala as they
seek care from the Institute.
Christine Namulindwa, a Public Relations Officer at the
Institute says the idea of having Cancer homes was born out of that need since
the institute can’t house all those due to the overwhelming number of patients
that they receive.
She said whenever they can’t
retain a patient, they always give them an option of going to cancer home as
they come back for review or radiotherapy, a service that is solely offered at
the institute in the whole country.
However, even as these homes – about five that are
recognized by the institute are offering an option for those in need, some have
had their patient residents like Emujong loiter on the streets, begging for
among others food and treatment money.
At the Nsambya based women’s cancer home called Patient
Relief Mission, Sheilah Munyanziza the founder says this is against the
principles that these centres were set up for.
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She said such cancer homes are supposed to be ‘begging’ on behalf
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Munyanziza who is also a cancer survivor said, patients shouldn’t
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But, Arnold Beyaraaza, the Executive Director of the Kiota Kona
Cancer Home told URN in an interview this afternoon that running such a home is
very challenging as they have to depend on donations to run.
He said that while they are set
up to offer a decent accommodation and meals as patients seek care at the
hospital, they are sometimes forced to chip in to pay for some treatments when
desperate patients run to them.
At the home this afternoon,
Beyaraaza was hosting 30 residents, the majority being cervical cancer patients
who he says have a lot of needs which complement treatment.
“We just can’t turn away
patients. It’s a lot of bills here and its people who have to foot them because
we depend on donations. Those homes sending patients on the streets must be
overwhelmed”, he explains, adding that until recently, homes were enrolling
really big numbers but Kampala Capital City Authority has now restricted them
on numbers depending on how big the place is.
Dr Gerald Mutungi, who heads the
Non-Communicable Diseases Division at the Ministry of Health says that they
only allow places that can fully take care of patients to start cancer homes
and that it’s unacceptable for a home to send patients begging on the street
for food or for a huge number of them to piling in a single room.
He says this is the reason as to why they resolved to have
uniform guidelines for homes such that they run in a proper and safe way.
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He said the drafting of the
guidelines started after they started hearing stories of patients being taken
advantage of in some homes.