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National Cancer Treatment Centre opens in Kingston - November 27, 2018

03/01/2019

cancer treatment NHF ST JOSEPH

MORE Jamaicans can now access world-class cancer treatment with the opening of a National Cancer Treatment Centre at the St Joseph's Hospital compound on Deanery Road in Kingston.

It is the second such facility to be opened by the National Health Fund (NHF). The other, which was opened a year ago, is located at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, St James.

The US$15-million ($860-million) state-of-the-art facility was officially opened yesterday at a ceremony on the hospital's compound. Of significance is that cancer patients will have access to treatment using state-of-the-art linear accelerators, a shift from cobalt radiation therapy.

Medical authorities emphasise that the LINAC devices will increase the efficacy of cancer radiation treatment as well as accessibility to cancer care in Jamaica. Services include external beam radiation treatments, image-guided radiation treatment, intensity-modulated radiation treatment, and high-dose brachytherapy.

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said yesterday that cobalt machines were merely “making people feel good, but not saving as many lives as they should”.

He said the centre could be considered a case study in the modernisation of public health infrastructure in Jamaica, as it demonstrates not only the possibilities in health care, but also the amount of work that has to be done to upgrade and expand infrastructure in the sector.

The health minister said it is important to recognise how advanced this technology is and the benefits for those who need it most.

“This linear accelerator is considered to be one of the most advanced in the world, and Jamaica can claim credit to have this piece of the equipment in two locations,” he stated.

But Tufton also emphasised efficient administration and provision of services to cancer patients, along with use of the equipment.

He said training of personnel is critical to patients and the country reaping maximum benefits from the facility.

“The training of those personnel, and partnering with the Cubans and others who came on board to work with us to meet the requirement so that the equipment can be administered was fundamental, and we have to continue the thrust along those lines,” the health minister said.

Eight people are currently being trained in various cancer treatment disciplines to help staff at the centre.

Tufton also emphasised that standards must be maintained.

“As complicated as this equipment is, it can also be quite dangerous if the standards are not maintained to do what is necessary. We are talking about nuclear technology,” he said.

He pointed out that sustainability is another critical component of the multimillion-dollar project.

“It's not cheap to operate this equipment, and those who need it most and cannot afford it will have access based on our commitment to universal access to health care” he said.

The health minister indicated that the business model being developed under the proposed public-private partnership arrangement for St Joseph's Hospital would therefore include a cost-recovery mechanism, while guaranteeing universal access to cancer treatment.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death, behind cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attack.

“Beyond prevention, you also have to invest in the curative side. And I believe what we have done over these many years is to effectively ensure that as a country we have the most modern equipment to deal with those unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with cancer… So we could declare today that Jamaica is adequately equipped on the curative side because of this very important piece of infrastructure,” he asserted.

The NHF contributed $10 million to the overall cost of the project, while the Tourism Enhancement Fund put up US$1 million, and the CHASE Fund US$3.5 million. This was in addition to private sector donations.

Chairman of the NHF, Everton Anderson noted yesterday that it was a major undertaking, marked by extensive collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency and other entities, to ensure that all specifications and international standards were met.

(Jamaica Observer - November 27, 2018)

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