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Gulu Regional Cancer Center Starts Partial Operation :: Uganda Radionetwork

Gulu Regional Cancer Center Starts Partial Operation

According to Obote, 36 cancer patients have so far undergone diagnosis and care since last month when they began testing and operating the new machines.
A medical personnel explains how a Computed Tomography (CT) scan works at the Gulu Regional Cancer Center. Photo By Julius Ocungi

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Gulu Regional Cancer Centre has started testing modern equipment meant for diagnosing and treating cancer patients in Northern Uganda in preparation for full operations. The first phase of the 7.5 million Euros (approximately 30 billion shillings) facility in Gulu City was launched in August 2021 by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.

The facility is intended to reduce the burden and cost incurred by hundreds of cancer patients in Lango and Acholi Subregions seeking treatment at the Ugandan Cancer Institute (UCI) in Kampala. Amos Obote, the Head of the Gulu Regional Cancer Center said on Friday that the facility has already been equipped with nearly all the essential medical equipment and supplies needed for its partial operation. 

These include a Computed Tomography (CT) scan, Mammogram for breast cancer checks, ultrasound scan, and x-ray scanner among others. Obote however notes that they haven’t yet installed a radiotherapy machine that is so crucial in the treatment of advanced cancer.

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According to Obote, 36 cancer patients have so far undergone diagnosis and care since last month when they began testing and operating the new machines. The majority of the patients came from Adjumani, Yumbe, Apac, Omoro, Pader, Kwania, and Amuru districts.

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Obote made the revelation as the board members of the Uganda Cancer Institute led by the chairperson Prof. William Bazeyo toured the facility under construction to witness its progress.

He, however, notes that with the number of patients already trickling in for their services, they expect to receive a high number of patients from within and outside the country once the center fully opens. He says their biggest challenges remain the limited personnel and lack of staff accommodation arguing that currently, the facility has 19 staff comprising four doctors, four nurses, one laboratory attendant, and one radiologist.

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But Prof. Bazeyo notes that whereas most of the essential machines have already been delivered, the facility isn’t fully operational adding that they have been partially offering services as they fix all the machines.

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Prof. Bazeyo says as the board members of UCI, they are impressed with the progress of the work at the facility and lauded the government and their partner the Austrian government for the generous funding. 

To address the staffing gap, Prof. Bazeyo says they will lobby with the government to lift the current injunction on staff recruitment arguing that the facility is essential to the treatment of patients suffering from cancer.

He however says there is a need to have more land to accommodate the second and third phases of the cancer center construction in the region where a radio therapy bunker will be established.

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Dr Jackson Orem, the UCI Executive Director says the upcountry makes up to 85 percent of the cancer patients who visit the cancer institute in Kampala with the 15 percent coming from the central region. He says the majority from upcountry don’t have access to medical personnel or proper medical care.

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Dr. Orem says establishing the cancer center in the region is strategic given the available data that shows the Gulu district registering high new cases of cancer second to the Central region followed by Western Uganda and Eastern Uganda. He says the facility will now reduce the time and cost cancer patients incur in accessing medical personnel and specialized treatment.

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According to Julius Ddamulira, an architect and construction manager at UCI, the progress of the first phase of the construction works currently stands at 80 percent. A 2022 statistics from UCI indicate that an estimated 33,000 people are diagnosed with cancer annually in the country but 21,300 are lost to the disease every year. Out of the 33,000 new cases registered, only about 7,400 make it for care at the Uganda Cancer Institute.

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