KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 —The Ministry of Health (MOH) provides ambulatory services and teleconsultation services for cancer patients to reduce their commute to Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) for treatment, said Dr Adham Baba.
Sibu MP Oscar Ling Chai Yew asked the health minister in the Dewan Rakyat last December 3 to state if the government will set up a new radiotherapy unit or a cancer centre at Sibu Hospital.
According to Dr Adham, the cost of providing comprehensive and complete services for cancer treatment is very high and requires trained specialists and supportive clinical personnel, besides buildings, equipment, and operating rooms.
“To ensure effective services and resources are optimised, cancer treatment services are implemented centrally (regional) by region, namely northern, central, southern, eastern, Sabah, and Sarawak regions,” Dr Adham said in a December 3 written reply.
“To reduce ward congestion at SGH and to overcome the difficulty of patients commuting to get chemotherapy treatment, MOH provides ambulatory services at Sibu Hospital. The hospital also provides teleconsultation services.”
Dr Adham did not mention if the government will be building a new radiotherapy unit or a new cancer centre in Sibu Hospital. It is to be noted that the time taken to travel by road to SGH from Sibu Hospital is about six hours.
Early last year, Society for Cancer Awareness and Advocacy Kuching (SCAN) said that SGH is the only public hospital in the whole state of Sarawak that has its own oncology department.
SCAN president Sew Boon Lui highlighted that Sarawak had only six oncologists as of 2017, which was below the ideal recommended ratio of oncologists to Malaysians, which should be 24 oncologists to Sarawak’s 2.47 million population.
Dr Adham said there are four specialists in SGH who specialise in radiotherapy and oncology, linear accelerator (LINAC), treatment planning system conventional simulator, CT-simulator and brachytherapy that can give the best treatment for Sarawak.
According to the health minister, in 2015, MOH has spent a total of RM85.82 million for the state of Sarawak, out of which RM58.18million was spent for SGH for the replacement, upgrading and procurement of new equipment, purchasing a Brainsuite equipment for the Department of of Neurosurgery, and LINAC worth of RM19.68 million for the department of radiotherapy and oncology.
LINAC uses high energy x-rays or electrons to conform to a tumour’s shape and destroy the cancer cells sparing the surrounding normal tissue.
”For the year 2020, the ministry is in the process of evaluating the tender for the replacement of LINAC at SGH with an estimated cost of RM18 million,” the health minister said.