Oncologists at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) have raised concerns about the significant understaffing issue they currently face, given the overwhelming number of cancer patients seeking treatment at the institute.
It is estimated that 33,000 Ugandans are diagnosed with cancer each year, but only about 7,400 of them receive treatment at the Uganda Cancer Institute.
These statistics were revealed during a visit by UCI board members, led by the Chairperson Professor William Bazeyo, aimed at assessing the institute’s new developments and technologies. During the visit, doctors and experts expressed their frustration with the severe staffing shortage, despite the acquisition of world-class cancer treatment machines.
Dr. Israel Luutu, a consultant radiologist and clinical oncologist, emphasized the urgent need to recruit more personnel. He mentioned that although three radiographers are currently undergoing training abroad and will return to the country by the end of next year, they will still fall short of the required number by 50 percent.
Dr. Luutu further explained that while the institute currently has eight physicists, only three are clinically qualified. This highlights the necessity to train the remaining five. He also stressed the need to recruit more doctors, as the institute currently only has four, whereas they require 15-20 doctors to effectively handle the growing number of patients.
UCI has initiated a training program to develop its staff, and currently, three fellows are enrolled in the program.
However, Dr. Luutu mentioned that there is no curriculum in place for training physicists, although one is currently being developed. Professor Isaac Kajja, Deputy Principal of the College of Health Sciences at Makerere University and a member of the board, emphasized the importance of expediting the curriculum development process so that qualified experts can effectively train others.
“As a centre of excellence we need to train our people and make sure that the jobs are given to Ugandans” Prof Kajja stated.
Dr. Nixon Niyonzima, Head of the Research and Training Directorate, highlighted the issue of limited workspace, stating that they require more space to carry out their work effectively.
Professor William Bazeyo, the board chairman, expressed pride in the world-class equipment available at the Uganda Cancer Institute, emphasizing that Ugandans no longer need to seek cancer treatment abroad. Regarding understaffing, Professor Bazeyo highlighted the institute’s autonomy, which allows them to recruit staff without going through the public service commission.
He also mentioned that the board has focused on human resource development and implemented an approved human resource structure.
Professor Bazeyo urged the SMS construction company, responsible for building the East African Center of Excellence, to expedite the construction work so that the facility can be used by Ugandans in the near future. According to the scientific journal Science Direct, cancer is a major cause of suffering and death worldwide. It is predicted that there will be 21 million new cancer cases globally each year by 2030, with 75% of the cancer burden falling on the developing world.
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