Rwanda: Relief for Cancer Patients as Butaro Hospital Gets Oncology Support Centre

First Lady Jeannette Kagame has commended a new programme that will provide cervical cancer prevention to women aged between 30-49.

Cancer patients from across the country and beyond who travel to Butaro Hospital for their daily chemotherapy can now breathe a sigh of relief following the launch of the oncology support centre.

The facility will provide accommodation and psychological support among other services for patients at the hospital, who have been commuting to the hospital - some daily - for treatment.

The centre was inaugurated on Wednesday at Butaro Hospital premises in Burera District and it was built by Partners in Health in collaboration with three other American-based partners at a tune of $350,000 (approximately Rwf320m).

According to officials, the facility will provide a wide range of services to cancer patients that they did not previously get because the existing facility was too small to accommodate all the patients.

Some of them who came from far had to spend nights on the veranda and in the hospital compound because they could not commute to return for treatment the next day.

"Some patients who came for their daily chemotherapy have to spend two nights and our ward in the hospital was not enough," said Dr. Joel Mubiligi, the country director, Partners in Health.

The oncology programme at Butaro Hospital has different departments that include laboratory which provides diagnosis and an infusion centre that provides chemotherapy.

"This support centre as its name suggests will support all these systems; it provides accommodation, mental health support, counselling and psycho-social support for the patients who come here for their daily chemotherapy," he noted.

Mubiligi promised improved services in the cancer treatment centre thanks to the new facility.

The oncology support centre can accommodate up to 70 patients.

Cancer patients who are currently under medical treatment at Butaro Hospital have welcomed the facility stressing that it comes to solve the many inconveniences they faced.

"All services here (at the hospital) are good except accommodation where we sometimes sleep on concrete due to a shortage of beds, but with this new centre we are happy that we will all be accommodated during our treatment," said Appolinalie Mbarushimana, a breast cancer patient from Nyanza District.

Speaking at the event, the Partners in Health co-founder Dr. Paul Farmer said the only way to reduce cancer deaths is to integrate prevention, diagnosis and treatment, stressing that the family members' role is crucial in the process.

"This work is hard and it's impossible without partnership; it is so hard under patients and their families to go through even uncomplicated cancer care," He noted

Farmer commended those who contributed towards the new facility, saying that this goes a long way to help cancer patients cope with the disease.

"This building itself is beautiful and can positively influence the outcome of their (patients') treatment. This can bring a difference to what happens to a patient after diagnosis. Any successful intervention has to involve this collaboration between the builders and caregivers," he said.

The Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana pointed out that the country aims to eradicate in the next five years the HPV and HBV viruses that respectively cause cervical and Hepatitis cancers, whose prevalence now stand at eight per cent.

He commended the contribution of Partners in Heath towards the country's effort to combat cancer.

"The Government of Rwanda appreciates chemotherapy services that are offered here with accommodation that is rendered to patients at free of charge," said Nsanzimana.

Figures from RBC indicate that 10,000 of Rwandans get new cancer infection on an annual basis with cervical cancer, breast cancer, Hepatitis (B&C) and prostate cancer emerging at the top. It is while 7,000 cases go unscreened.

"We are calling on the Rwandans to prevent lifestyles that expose them to cancers, mainly eating appropriately the balanced diet and doing routine physical exercises," he said.

Butaro Hospital receives about 400 cancer patients on a monthly basis and over 8,700 were received at the hospital since 2012.

According to figures from the hospital, ten per cent of the patients come from outside the country, with the majority coming from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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