Uganda's sole radiotherapy machine

In the first week of April reports emerged that Uganda’s only Cobalt 60 radiotherapy machine installed at Mulago hospital and used for treating cancer, had finally broke down.

In response the government confirmed that it is exploring the possibility of housing a new radiotherapy machine in the existing bunker.

However, it has been said that between 2007 and 2011, the radiotherapy department of Mulago received $100m from government to purchase a new machine and build a bunker, but the machine was procured in 2013.

According to the former head of the radiotherapy department at Mulago, Dr Joseph Kigula, bosses at the referral hospital frustrated his efforts to secure a new radiotherapy machine.

“It should have been changed in 2007 because up to the time of preparing the contract everything was in order, then just about when the contract was getting ready, there was a change of administration and Dr Byarugaba said am not happy with this contract”, Dr Kigula was quoted as telling local media outlet, URN.

Dr Joseph Kigula
Dr Joseph Kigula

“In fact, at about the same time, which was even more surprising, we had a Canadian friend who was willing to raise money to build a bunker at about $200,000 – free of charge. It would be a donation to government but because the money was just enough for just one bunker and the plan this time was to build two bunkers in phase I, the management said ‘no’, we need two bunkers, we cannot do this one bunker and so the offer went away”, he said.

According to Health Minister Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, the government is now trying to get technical assessment of the existing bunker to see whether it can be able to house the new machine in the coming weeks.

A new machine was bought in 2013 but the government delayed allocating 30 billion shillings ($8.97 million) for the bunker.

The Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, Dr Jackson Orem, in response said that the existing bunker had just been found unsafe to house the new cancer machine.

Delays in placing the machine in an appropriate bunker, has left about 2,000 cancer patients in unbearable circumstances.

EagleOline has contacted Mulago Hospital management for a comment.