Low Cost Cancer Treatment Centre Targets Low Income Groups


As an oncologist at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Catherine Nyongesa knows the suffering that cancer patients go through waiting for between six months to a year for treatment.

Despite being the national referral hospital, KNH has only two radiotherapy machines — the only ones in the entire public health sector.

Only a few can afford services in private health facilities. This state of affairs prompted Dr Nyongesa to establish the Texas Cancer Centre (TCC) in 2010 to provide low-cost treatment.

Published on Mar 5, 2015

Dr Catherine Nyongesa, Director of Texas Cancer Centre (TCC) talks about the health facility that she and her husband established to provide low cost cancer treatment targeting patients from low income backgrounds.

Despite being the national referral hospital, KNH has only two radiotherapy machines — the only ones in the entire public health sector.

Only a few can afford services in private health facilities. This state of affairs prompted Dr Nyongesa to establish the Texas Cancer Centre (TCC) in 2010 to provide low-cost treatment.

“I got tired of complaining and sending patients away. I decided to be part of the solution and contribute to cancer care and treatment in my own little way,” she told the Business Daily at TCC.

Even though it opened its doors in 2010, little was known about the facility until late 2012 when it came to the limelight following media reports that the late politician Martin Shikuku was being treated there.

Due to its foreign name — Texas— many Kenyans may view it as foreign and maybe out of reach. But the name was picked at random, the oncologist said.

“Since the other co-founder as well as director of TCC is based in Texas, we decided to use the name when we were setting up the centre,” she says.

Coincidentally, Texas is the home of one of the largest and respected cancer centres worldwide known as University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre. The centre inspires her.

“We want to reach more ordinary Kenyans with affordable cancer treatment,” she says.

Dr Catherine Nyongesa explains how the LINAC radiotherapy machine works at Texas Cancer Centre. PHOTO | SARAH OOKO.

Dr Catherine Nyongesa explains how the LINAC radiotherapy machine works at Texas Cancer Centre. PHOTO | SARAH OOKO.

The facility that now handles close to 150 cancer patients daily up from 50, began as a nursing home offering basic care for pain alleviation.

By 2012, TCC started offering laboratory, out-patient and inpatient services. However, the only treatment offered back then was chemotherapy, the use drugs to destroy cancer cells.

Dr Nyongesa and her partner-husband secured a Sh100 million bank loan to grow the

centre and offer quality comprehensive cancer care and treatment to Kenyans. They also used the cash to expand the facility.

TCC main offices are now located on Mbagathi Way where they offer outpatient services. The Hurligham clinic offers inpatient services only.

The centre has a Linac radiotherapy machine, one of the latest in the market, which runs procedures for as short as 15 minutes, compared to 30 minutes it would take at KNH. The business is planning to acquire another machine by mid this year, she said.

Without revealing the actual figures, she said TCC was focusing on offering cancer treatment “to vulnerable patients” and charges about 50 per cent lower than the prevailing rates in other private hospitals.

The TCC also has a programme of vetting patients based on their social history. “Very needy patients are heavily subsidised as others pay slightly more.”

She says they have been able to bring the cost down “by waiving professional charges to make services more affordable to the poor.”

Texas Cancer Center Patient Veronica crowns her doctor with hand made necklace from Samburu.

Texas Cancer Center Patient Veronica crowns her doctor with hand made necklace from Samburu.

Dr Nyongesa, who is one of only four radiation oncologists in Kenya is also the only woman with that speciality.

One of the challenges, she says, is attracting and retaining skilled employees while keeping the costs affordable. TCC has over 70 employees up from 10 when the centre was established.

The minimal medical costs are attracting patients, enabling TCC to generate profit and offer quality services. Apart from treatment, TCC has adopted a holistic approach that addresses external factors that may compromise procedures.

For instance, Dr Nyongesa explains, they are keen on diet. For this reason, TCC prepares breakfast and lunch for patients from poor backgrounds depending on the time they come to the facility for either radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

“It makes them strong,” she told the Business Daily.

For patients living outside Nairobi, the facility offers hostels at Sh1,000 daily which covers all meals and an ambulance transport to and from the clinic that has a counsellor and nutritionist, which services speed up recovery of patients.

Apart from her, TCC has an in-house oncologist and also has a team of external cancer specialists who are consulted for special procedures such as surgery.

Source: Business Daily Africa

Dr.Catherine-Nyongesa

Dr.Catherine-Nyongesa

Dr. Nyongesa is a Radiation Oncologist at Texas Cancer Centre and Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi with over 10 years’ experience in Oncology conducting inpatient and outpatient management of cancer patients. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery (UoN), Master of Medicine in Radiation Oncology (Witwatersrand, SA) and a Fellowship (FC Rad Onc) in Radiation Oncology from the College of Radiation Oncologists of South Africa. Among the key organisations she is a member of include the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Health Professions Council of South Africa and International Gynaecologist Cancer Society.

Among the awards she has been a recipient of include Conquer Cancer Foundation (2011, ASCO Annual Meeting), IDEA (International Development Award- ASCO, 2009) and IGCS Travelling Scholarship Award (International Gynaecologic Cancer Society, 2008)

From an Intern To First & Only Female Kenyan Radiation Oncologist

Dr. Nyongesa starts as early as 5am. She does her daily rounds in different hospitals around Nairobi including Mater, Nairobi West, Nairobi South, Mariakani, Nairobi Hospital then finally to KNH. Afterwards, she goes to Texas Cancer Centre, a facility she started four years ago (June 2010).

“In a day, I see about or more than 100 patients. Since oncologists are few, there is a lot of work to do and sometimes I do burn out. There are days I don’t get enough time to spend with my family,” she says.

With the current war against cancer Ms. Nyongesa is glad that she has an opportunity to touch and save lives.

She however adds that being the first and only female radiation oncologist in the country is not easy.

It can be overwhelming though because that means there is a lot of work to do. It is difficult whenever I lose a patient. Some patients are lively and I develop a special bond with them. There are some situations that haunt me to date

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About LFCT

This is a blog about CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 2 October, 2015, in Articles, Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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