The doors are soon to open on the new Chandaria Cancer and Chronic Care Center in Eldoret. 27 months after we actually broke ground on the 100,000 sf facility it will open to begin serving those in need. The new facility will open in phases with the research floor being occupied first, then the oncology and chronic disease care areas on the ground floor, then the administrative areas on the 3rd floor and radiation oncology wing. Hopefully in the not too distant future the radiation oncology wing will also be equipped so that it too can be put to use. The first floor (2nd in U.S) is set to accommodate future expansion of services and treatment. Discussions are already underway as to what types of clinics will be there.
27 months to construct a facility of this nature is no mean accomplishment regardless of the measuring stick used. The site has regularly employed in excess of 100 men and women directly and countless others in the supply chain. We have focused very hard on sourcing from Kenya and East Africa to the greatest extent possible. Our power tools consisted of concrete mixers, a concrete pump, a couple of power drills and power saws and welding equipment. All other tools were powered by hands, legs and strong backs! For the most part we have very good tradesmen, supervisors and design team. With very few exceptions they have been a pleasure to work with. That is not to say that there weren’t frustrations….there were….but those are eclipsed by the success of the efforts. The story of constructing the building is interesting in its own way but by far the more interesting and powerful aspect of this project is the strong sense of collaboration, commitment and determination on the parts of Kenyans and their American and Canadian counterparts. Their dream is to provide better care delivery and medical care for those of lesser means. The building and the programs it will house are a culmination of one part of the dream.
Beginning in late April researchers will have a common facility to work in where they can undertake critical clinical research as well as general research. At present these researchers from Kenya and around the world are spread throughout Eldoret in a variety of locations. The new building provides them with clinical treatment rooms, a clinical pharmacy, meeting rooms, team work rooms, a library, and data manager facilities. Perhaps some of the research here will help solve some of the medical problems challenging people in Kenya and throughout the world. Beginning early May the ground floor will be opened and patients will have the opportunity to see doctors for many chronic diseases…..all in one facility! There is a beautiful new open space for infusion of chemo drugs used in oncology in lieu of the tent in which the drugs are currently administered. There are waiting areas, staff rooms, a pharmacy, cash offices, nurses stations all designed with the intent of providing top quality medical care in a dignified manner for the patients.
Later in the year the radiation oncology wing will be opened post receipt of the radiation oncology equipment. Our work as builders and tradesmen will be finished by the end of May and a facility will then be in place that can house the latest in bracheatherapy equipment, CT Simulators and radiation oncology equipment. This is big news in a country and region where there are very limited options for those of lesser means who are also stricken with cancer. Final sourcing of this exceptionally expensive equipment remains pending however the Government of Kenya is working diligently to identify sources. Simultaneously there is the possibility of donors assisting. Pricing for the equipment can be as much as $3.5million depending upon what is purchased……big numbers but the funds must be found. Cancer has recently overtaken malaria as the number 1 killer in Kenya……that is really hard to imagine. The most recently reported numbers indicated approximately 27,000 deaths due to cancer.
By August the 3rd floor (U.S 4th) will be ready to house the administrative wings of Moi University Medical School, the Director and his staff from Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital as well as offices for the Ampath Consortium partners. This proximity will give the leaders of each group the opportunity to interact more readily and continue to build on the successes they have enjoyed together.
Working “Together”…..or …..“PAMOJA” is what has made this project possible. From the dreamers to the donors to the doctors to the designers to the tradesmen, and the myriad of supporting people in between a dream is being realized. Regrettably resting at this juncture is not an option!
Cancer and other chronic diseases are brutal. They inflict great pain and suffering on those being treated as well as their families. These diseases are not easy to treat and the treatment is often very expensive….and beyond the means of many to afford. There is much, much work to be done to find the cures for these diseases. In the meantime there is significant expense to be incurred to train the doctors and technicians, fund the construction and maintenance of the facilities as well as purchase the medicines and equipment. ”Pamoja” we will need to continue to work hard, each in his /her capacity to make a contribution to meeting this challenge.
As we near the end of this chapter in the dream for us, I can say without reservation that the past 33 months have been very special for my family and me. We have met many truly wonderful and inspiring people from both Kenya and other parts of the world. We have enjoyed some of the most spectacular sights one can have the opportunity to behold on Mother Earth and we have grown and learned to appreciate more readily. We have had to confront some of our own weaknesses and to reflect on our priorities. I can hardly imagine a richer experience.
Tomorrow will find me working on worklists and details with men I have grown to enjoy and respect. I will fumble along in my pseudo Swahili and they will humor the mzee as he mixes up pronouns……but somehow….”pamoja” we got a building built. Work remains and we plan to be part of it!