Letter: Government forsakes cancer patients by scrapping National Oncology Centre

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Dear Sir:

The deplorable decision of the Rowley government to discontinue the pursuit and construction of the National Oncology Centre is a monumental medical disaster for our country, in which there are approximately 3,000 new cancer patients each year.

Cancer is the number one cause of death amongst women and second leading cause of death amongst men in Trinidad and Tobago. Approximately 1,200 patients die annually from cancer.

In callously abandoning this extremely critical national project, the incompetent PNM regime has virtually forsaken cancer patients who deserve comprehensive and holistic management and care in an integrated medical facility and system.

This Oncology Centre, had been earmarked as a modern and essential centre of excellence, up to first-world standard, utilising cutting-edge technology, with experienced and well-trained professionals.

The proposal was for the provision of comprehensive services, including prevention through education, early detection and an integrated system for patient care for the various types of cancer.

The facility was conceptualised to provide universal cancer care. Instead, the Rowley administration has recklessly scrapped construction of the all-important medical centre under the guise of a dispute with contractor Bouygues Batiment.

The state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging and advanced medical treatment equipment units would now be fragmented and disbursed to many different locations for health care, resulting in inappropriate, uncoordinated and incomplete cancer care management at these various centres.

This plan would not provide optimal benefit to patients, since the equipment was meant to be incorporated into a medical centre with a full suite of applicable services, with appropriate medical professionals.

This careless, thoughtless and unscientific decision and approach taken by this administration, will result in the marked progression of disease of these patients, leading to no cure and subsequent death.

The minister of health, his advisors and the Rowley-led government, must immediately reconsider this decision in relation to the removal of the intended equipment for this Oncology Centre into various institutions, and must move swiftly to conclude the present arbitration.

In addition, this carefully conceptualised Oncology Centre, which went through many years of decision-making by various governments, must remain as an urgent health-policy decision as a centre of excellence, not only for Trinidad and Tobago, but for the region, in the provision of excellent care for thousands of cancer patients, reducing significant morbidity and mortality for these unfortunate patients.

Dr Tim Gopeesingh

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