Minister for Health and Population Atupele Muluzi has said the much-touted National Cancer Centre located at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) is expected to be ready by 2019 and save government about K480 million ($960 000) spent on cancer treatment referrals abroad annually.
The centre will have the capacity to handle 2 000 cancer cases annually and will also have facilities for in-service training of oncology medical staff.
Speaking in Parliament Monday when he presented a ministerial statement , Muluzi the colour dream of cancer centre will be a reality by next year.
"Mr Speaker, In 2019 we will deliver, on time, the National Cancer Hospital. This is a key commitment of His Excellency, the State President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika and will bring a major increase in capacity not just to Malawi but the region," said Muluzi.
Muluzi said has Ministry of Health (MoH) has worked hard with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organisation and others "to ensure that we have the right knowledge, the right licenses and the right equipment to deliver cutting edge cancer treatments."
In 2007, late president Bingu wa Mutharika officiated the launch of fundraising efforts to mobilise resources for building Malawi'ss first and only radiotherapy centre. The idea gave birth to the dream of building a national cancer centre in the country.
The cancer centre is being constructed with a loan from Opec Fund for International Development (Ofid) to the tune of $13 million (about K10 billion). The Malawi Government will also make financial contribution as per Ofid's loan conditions.
The challenge of cancer is not just for Malawi.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is a leading cause of death around the world. WHO estimates that 84 million people will die of cancer between 2005 and 2015 without intervention.
However, low-income and medium-income countries such as Malawi are the hardest hit by cancer compared to high-resource countries.
In his statement, Muluzi also revealed plans by the Ministry to expand Service Level Agreements (SLAs) beyond Christian Health Association of Malawi (Cham) facilities.
For years, there has been a sour working relationship emanating from failure to pay Cham for the patients from government hospitals.
But Muluzi said government has committed to continue to pay salaries for all health workers in CHAM health facilities as a way of subsidising the cost of health care that populations that are in their catchment populations face.
"In addition, a total of 131 individual Service Level Agreements (SLAs) have been signed to date, representing 93% of the target set for Financial Year (FY) 2018/19 again to make sure that health care is accessible by all," he said.
He said 23 CHAM health facilities have increased their range of services to include Maternal Neonatal care, Paediatric and mental health services.
" Going forward My Ministry is planning to expand SLAs with service partners beyond CHAM. This is all to ensure we can maintain our commitment to Universal Health Coverage, making sure that everyone can access healthcare services regardless of where they live in the country," said Muluzi.
When President Mutharika last year launched the construction of a Cancer Treatment Centre in Lilongwe, he outlined a number of projects in the health sector to improve service delivery.
The projects include construction of Blantyre, Zomba and Dowa hospitals and a modern military hospital for Malawi Defence Force equipped with an air ambulance.