“I believed I would die from cancer, since I didn’t think there was any cure,” Delphine Musabeyezu told a group assembled in front of the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Center in Rwanda Tuesday. “I’m here now to say I am doing well. I’m here as someone that is cured.”

The just-opened Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Center (BACC) is part of the Butaro Hospital campus, which sits at the top of lushly terraced hills in the northern district of Rwanda—and where Musabeyezu was treated. She and others gathered this week to celebrate the opening of the ambulatory center, which is designed to treat cancer patients who need regular IV chemotherapy but who don’t need to be admitted into the hospital.

The BACC will relieve pressure on medical staff who have been caring for an overwhelming number of patients in the hospital, which sits a few hundred yards away. The hospital’s inpatient oncology ward at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence—which contains 22 inpatient beds and three isolation rooms--regularly overflows with patients. More than 1,000 patients have been registered for treatment at the center since it opened in July 2012.

Starting next week, many of these patients—up to 20 a day—will now be seen in the BACC.

Patients entering the one-story building will first be registered and their vital signs taken. As they move through the compact facility, they’ll see a meeting room, an area where chemotherapy drugs are mixed, and then reach an open, sunny room whose large windows take full advantage of the views outside. When the first patients arrive next week, they’ll receive chemotherapy here, sitting in comfortable blue or cream chairs with seating around them so family members and attending medical staff can remain close by.

“The only way to make deaths from cancer drop is to integrate prevention, diagnosis, and care,” PIH co-founder Paul Farmer told the group gathered for the opening celebration.

The facility—designed by the MASS Design Group and built by Partners In Health—also holds several consultation rooms, an exterior waiting area, and a private patient garden.

“The only way to make deaths from cancer drop is to integrate prevention, diagnosis, and care,” PIH co-founder Paul Farmer told the group gathered for the opening celebration. “Bringing those three things together is doable. It will be done here in Rwanda, and it will light the way for other countries around the world, not just in Africa.”

The BACC is the third phase in a five-phase Butaro Hospital expansion project. Phase 1 included construction of the main hospital campus, phase 2 was the doctor and staff housing that opened in November 2012, and phases 4 and 5 will be an expansion of doctor, nurse, and staff housing and room, beds, and services for patients.

BACC is generously funded by the Cummings Foundation, led by Bill and Joyce Cummings, who also attended the event. Partners include the government of Rwanda, Rwanda Biomedical Center, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, and MASS Design Group.

“This is a great day,” said Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda’s minister of health, as she wrapped up the celebration. “This is a challenge we give to the world. We just showed them what is possible with good partnership.”
 

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