NASSAU, The Bahamas – Partnerships are required to “share the burden” of treating cancer in The Bahamas as the costs of treatment for persons affected by the disease are very high, said chairperson of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA)Veta Brown.
Mrs. Brown, speaking at the opening of the Princess Margaret Hospital’s new state of the art Oncology Centre, pointed out that the costs challenge the “financing capacity” of the individuals affected by cancer, their families, healthcare providers, insurance companies and the Government of The Bahamas.
She said partnerships are needed in a number of areas, among them public advocacy through education and awareness programmes, professional and technical expertise that will allow for the delivery of appropriate and timely interventions, social and community outreach and financial support to ensure that all persons can access at least a minimum package of services.
Mrs. Brown added that political, international and commercial partnerships are also required to affect a global movement for the reduction in the costs of services, particularly for chemotherapy medicines which could cost in excess of $3,000 for a month’s supply of one of the drugs on the local market.
This is of particular importance, she said, as many patients require a cocktail of at least three drugs which are “not all at the same costs.”
She noted that over the past five years, the Public Hospitals Authority has spent in excess of $5 million to provide radiation therapy services for approximately 400 patients while monies spent on chemotherapy drugs and/or medicines to treat cancer amounted to approximately 11 per cent of the total drug budget during the fiscal year 2007-2008.
Mrs. Brown said that is equivalent to what was spent for anti-diabetic medicines despite the fact that the number of persons being treated for diabetes is greater.
“It must be noted that the percentage of persons in the total population being treated for cancer is considerably lower than those being treated for diabetes,” Mrs. Brown said. “These figures are provided to highlight only some of the costs associated with the delivery of services to a sector of our population.
“The total cost of care, must – out of necessity (and) in most instances – be shared with multiple partners,” Mrs. Brown continued, “this partnership for care is essential if we are to ensure that eligible persons have access to care at the earliest opportunity (as) early intervention can improve the prognosis and/or recovery and may also reduce the costs of care and the time away from work or other productive pursuits.”
Mrs. Brown noted meantime that the PHA’s aim, as part of the “national government machinery” is to maximize the use of all of its resources to build the linkages and partnerships needed so that all Bahamians and visitors can have access to quality cancer services.
“You will appreciate that as we move forward, appropriate mechanisms will be put in place to determine and implement measures to meet the full costs of operations. We therefore encourage you to continue to build alliances with us as we collectively strive to deliver quality services,” Mrs. Brown said.
“The Public Hospitals Authority has placed significant investments in this programme and will continue to do so. Without a doubt, the prevalence of cancer is growing in our country; some of which appear to be very aggressive and are affecting our young populations in their productive years. We cannot rest on our accomplishments of the past, but we must gear up to meet the challenges of the future,” Mrs. Brown added.
Public Hospitals Authority Chairperson Mrs. Veta Brown. (BIS Photo/Kristaan Ingraham)