Cancer Patients May Get Worse During Prolonged MCO: Galen Centre

The hardest hit are cancer patients from public hospitals, who have been facing difficulties continuing disrupted care.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 – The extension of the Movement Control Order (MCO) until May 12 may increase death rates among people with cancer, the Galen Centre said today.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, a health think tank, said the reprioritisation of public and private health systems, implementation of social distancing measures, and prolonged restrictions on movement since the MCO was imposed on March 18 have negatively affected cancer patients.

“The condition of such patients may deteriorate as a result of delaying treatment and care due to the prolonged MCO or infection from Covid-19. They may even die as a result,” Galen Centre chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said in a statement.

“We are already seeing the indirect effects of the Covid-19 crisis on cancer care. With continued uncertainty surrounding the end of the partial lockdown which now into the second month, many patients are facing trouble with referrals and rescheduling of their treatments and surgeries.”

According to him, the hardest hit are cancer patients who were getting treatment from public hospitals, as many of these hospitals have been redesignated for Covid-19.

“Anecdotal evidence indicates that though they have been redirected to other health care facilities, including those in the private sector, continuing disrupted treatment is not easily achievable,” said Azrul.

“Some patients have indicated that they were unable to get confirmation whether and when their treatments would be available at the new locations. Others, redirected to private hospitals, have stated that they couldn’t undergo surgeries due to financial constraints. The government guidelines also now require all surgical patients to be tested for Covid-19, which has increased the cost of the procedures.”

Apart from that, Azrul also opined that as there is a constant focus on Covid-19, the public may be “starting to fear a Covid-19 diagnosis more than a cancer diagnosis.”

Even when the government decides to ease the MCO, new patients will suffer because public hospitals will need to clear all of their backlogged cases.

“Cancer patients, like many of those living with chronic illnesses, are anxious and fearful of their ability to access care during this difficult time.

“The government needs to reassure patients, act and to be seen to act to ensure that the quality and care of treatment are not compromised as an unintended consequence of the Covid-19 crisis.”

Last week, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah denied that government hospitals have stopped treating patients with cancer due to the focus on the Covid-19 outbreak.

“But for cancer patients, we take the blood first. If the blood shows that it is not appropriate for us to give chemotherapy, we may postpone it.

“Chemotherapy or treatment being delayed is because of other reasons, not because of the hospital closing or because of Covid-19 infection,” he was quoted saying.

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