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The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is making plans to open a cancer treatment unit at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital by next month.
“We are trying to strengthen the provision of medical services to patients who suffer with cancer at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and one of the specific initiatives that we are embarking upon right now is to set up an oncology unit,” Minister of Health, Sen. Luke Browne told iWitness News on Monday.
“I think the only thing which is left for its completion would be the installation of a bio-safety cabinet and I think that would probably happen within the next couple weeks.
“So I anticipate that before, say, the end of November, we would have everything in place to have the unit up and running.”
The health minister told iWitness News that the public health system will try its best to treat as wide a range of cancers as possible.
“Naturally, there would be some limitations on our local capacity, but, to overcome some of those limitations, we are building up relationships and partnerships with entities aboard.”
Browne mentioned the Cancer Centre Eastern Caribbean, which is based in Antigua and Barbuda, adding that the government also has treatment arrangements with hospitals in Guyana and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
“So we would be able to provide chemotherapy in particular within this oncology unit. Radiation is not something that we are going to be offering there and the whole plan is to be able to diagnose cancers earlier, because you when it gets to the later stages, stage 3 and stage 4, even the most advanced cancer treatment centres are probably not going to be able to make the best interventions for the purpose of saving lives and minimising pain and discomfort.”
He said that cancer is the number one cause of death in SVG.
“I think that we have maybe more than 10 per cent of the deaths, based on the monitoring and evaluation reports are caused by cancer.”
Browne said that for females, breast cancer is the most prevalent while among males, it is prostate cancer.
“So this is a problem in St. Vincent. It is a rising epidemic of cancers, which are a subset of non-communicable diseases and it is also a problem throughout the world, so we hope that we can get this under control to the extent possible with our resources.