Earlier in the month, the only radiation machine in Uganda broke beyond repair. The machine was being used at Mulago Hospital which is located in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Mulago receives about 44,000 referrals to its cancer center each year, and almost 75% of them require radiation therapy.
In the past there were two machines in the country, the one in Mulago Hospital and one in Lacor Hospital as well. The machine located in Lacor stopped working back in 2000. The hospital received no funding to repair the machine because it was already becoming obsolete due to more advanced technology. In addition, the government had a plan to open one cancer center for the entire country in Northern Uganda. Unfortunately, this dream has yet to be fulfilled. Dr. Martin Ogwang, one of the three directors at Lacor Hospital, still hopes for this in the future.
With the deterioration of the only machine, many patients in Uganda are going without treatment. Lacor refers patients to Mulago, but Dr. Martin explains that most are too poor to go there to receive treatment. It is also often that these patients seek medical care when it is too late- their cancer is quite advanced. At this stage, Dr. Martin says that the staff at Lacor has to resort to palliative care. This type of care includes counseling, pain control and preparing family members for the eventual outcome.
The cancer center is working with the Ministry of Health to try and secure funds to purchase a new machine. A bunker is currently being constructed which is necessary to house a radioactive machine. Dr. Martin says that the current timeline for the project is one year.
Until then? Other treatments are available to patients such as surgery and chemotherapy. But for those who desperately need radiation, a trip to Kenya is their only hope. Patients requiring this treatment must pay for their own travel. This is a luxury most cannot afford.