Six years after award of contract, a new state-of-the-art cancer centre at the National Hospital has eventually been constructed and commissioned for use.
The plan had been in place to replace the previous cancer machine at the hospital with two new LINAC machines, however, the project had been stalled.
The machine spent four years in the crate before it installed. It also took a while to get it functional and ready for use.
PREMIUM TIMES understands that the Multileave Linear Accelerator, LINAC machine meant for radiotherapy treatment was delivered to the complex in 2013.
Cancer patients in Nigeria have been dying in numbers due to difficulty in accessing radiotherapy treatment.
There is a limited number of radiotherapy machines in the country and many patients have been forced to travel out of the country, even to neighbouring countries such as Ghana to seek treatment.
The new centre which houses the machine was officially opened on Saturday by the wife of the vice president, Dolapo Osinbajo, in the presence of the minister of health, Isaac Adewole and the chief medical director of the institution, Jaf Momoh.
Mrs. Osinbajo in her remarks commended the effort of the government.
She lamented that many of the radiotherapy machines in the country were not working but expressed hope that even though the newly installed machine at the hospital was not fully functional yet, it was at least a step in the right direction.
”They encountered challenges in setting the machine up because the CMD told us it was not yet completed, but no matter the percentage (of completion), we are grateful it has started working. It is unimaginable that we lose loved ones to cancer due to non-availability of facilities in the country.
“We look forward to the day the cure for cancer would be found. At present, resources are limited, we are glad that we are taking steps in the right effort. My appeal is that we should love Nigeria and love Nigerians. What I see is hope. I see by reason of this building, patients that are healthy and relations of patients that are happy,” she said.
The minister in his own speech urged more investors to invest in the health sector so as to assist Nigerians get access to better health facilities.
He said the government would continue to fashion policies to improve on the health infrastructure in the country.
Mr. Adewole said cancer is a global scourge and that only 17 per cent of countries in the world have the resources to tackle the disease. He said only South Africa and Egypt have effective capacity for treatment of the disease on the continent.
“We want to minimise our people going out for treatment. Instead of going to Ghana to spend $ 10,000 per person for treatment, we are trying to see how the money can be retained at home and we need more support and resources from the government to deliver the basic health care promises,” he said.
Earlier, Mr. Momoh in his welcome address, expressed delight that the new complex housing the radiotherapy centre and the machine can eventually be put to use years after the contract was awarded and the machine delivered.
He said plans had been in place since 2012 to replace the previous LINAC machine which was commissioned in May 2000 and which remained functional till February this year.
He said the new machine is the first of its kind in Nigeria and staff of relevant departments have been trained on its use.
He said the new radiotherapy complex has facilty for one CT simulator, and two radiotherapy bunkers.
All the current seven government-owned cancer machines are not fully functional.
Most have broken down as a result of over-use, old age and lack of proper maintenance, and cannot get fixed due to lack of spare parts and relevant technical expertise.
The previous LINAC cancer machine used at the hospital stopped working since February.