What this means is that the Institute, which has been a national referral in cancer management, will now turn into a regional referral accepting patients from the five EAC countries.
It also means that the Institute will be elevated, have more specialised equipment and staff trained in the handling of the deadly non-communicable disease.
Jesca Eriyo, the deputy secretary general (productive and social sectors) at the EAC, said the decision to select the Uganda Cancer Institute as the EAC referral for cancer management was reached at last September?s sectorial council of ministers meeting in Arusha, Tanzania.
The ministers agreed to select Uganda (the Cancer Institute) as the EAC?s centre of excellence in cancer management, revealed the former Adjumani district woman MP and state minister for environment.
At the same meeting, Kenyatta Hospital in Kenya was selected as the community?s centre of excellence in managing kidney disease. The Muhimbili Hospital in Tanzania was selected as the community?s centre of excellence in handling Heart disease. Burundi was selected for Nutrition; and Rwanda for health information systems.
Eriyo said that they (the community) had the support of the African Development Bank (ADB) to ?fully furnish and bring to standard? what will now be called the EAC go to referrals. They are going to borrow money ? some of it will be grants, to execute this.
?In two years or so the centres should be ready so we don?t continue to have people (East Africans) being flown abroad for treatment of these diseases.?
?We want to build capacity so that if a patient has cancer (in any of the community countries) they are referred here (at the Uganda Cancer Institute) than have to be referred abroad,? Eriyo said.
Earlier, while briefing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre ahead of this year?s EAC Science Conference (which will be hosted at the Kampala Serena Hotel from Wednesday 25 to Friday 27) the former legislator stressed the importance for the community to collaborate its health systems and to borrow a leaf from each other in ?mitigating these diseases that affect us (as a region).?
?We share trans-boundary diseases. When Ebola hit West Africa, we witnessed a 16% reduction in the numbers of tourists coming into the (EAC) community. We share the same HIV/AIDS burden. We should not wait for donors to first close their taps before we think of ways to fund our own health systems.?
Flanked by the newly appointed state minister for health (in charge of general duties), Chris Baryomunsi, Eriyo stressed ?it is our duty (as the community) to come together to find solutions for diseases that affect us.?
The conference starting on Wednesday is expected to explore ways the community (EAC) can address these issues of health systems strengthening and integrated approaches for disease prevention, control and management among the member states.
Chris Baryomunsi said over 800 leading health and development sector players from the community were expected at the conference that will also discuss ways of improving child and maternal health and alleviating the HIV/AIDS burden.
The conference will also seek to address the promotion of access to safe, efficacious and quality medicines; and focus on ?one health? approaches, Baryomunsi said.
By John Agaba, The New Vision