Jamaica needs child cancer treatment specialist
Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson has raised the red flag over the absence of any paediatric oncologist - a specialist in child cancer treatment - operating in the island.
"There is no paediatric oncologist operating in Jamaica and this must be corrected, given the increasing incidence of cancer in young children."
He also indicated that the public-health system was operating with serious deficiency in trained personnel and equipment to offer care to cancer patients.
"We need more of the trained nursing staff and additional radiologists who are critical to service delivery and patient care," Dr Ferguson stated. "The infrastructure is weak both in terms of physical space to provide the service, a comfortable setting, and the old technology that is used in the public-health sector."
The health minister was speaking at the official launch of the Linac Fund Project at the Cornwall Regional Hospital recently, put on by the Jamaica Association of Administrative Professionals (JAAP) in partnership with the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI).
The JAAP and the MBCCI are seeking to raise J$200 million to purchase a linear accelerator for the Cornwall Regional Hospital, which will significantly enhance the facility's ability to treat cancer patients.
Dr Ferguson also highlighted the need for significant investment in support services, with particular reference to laboratory capacity.
"We must reduce the turnaround time for histology results, which now stand at two months on average. It is difficult to get bone marrow biopsies done and there is no flow cytometry, which is an essential tool for diagnosing leukaemia (a technique for counting and examining microscopic particles) in the state sector except at the University Hospital of the West Indies."
He said based on this reality and the constraints on the public purse to provide the required services, he was appealing for partners to come forward and make a meaningful response.
"We will be moving with a sense of urgency to establish a national cancer registry and expand testing capability in the regions. There is a backlog of samples at the national public-health laboratory that we are now moving to clear."