KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) is studying a proposal to set up a cancer centre in Samarahan to expand cancer services in Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia that is almost as big as the peninsula.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that radiotherapy and oncology treatment services in Sarawak are implemented regionally as the state is facing a shortage of oncologists.
“Currently, there are five oncologists at Sarawak General Hospital (SGH). These specialists are mobilised periodically to Miri, Sibu and Bintulu Hospitals,” Khairy said in the Dewan Rakyat today in his winding-up speech at the policy-level debate of Budget 2022.
The recommended ratio of oncologists to the Malaysian population is 10 to one million. The ideal ratio for Sarawak’s 2.47 million population should be 24 oncologists.
In order to address the difficulty of patients commuting to obtain chemotherapy treatment and to reduce ward congestion at SGH, which is based in the state capital of Kuching, MOH has established a Clinical Oncology Unit (COU) at Sibu Hospital.
A total of 1,168 cancer patients in 2019 and 1,317 in 2020 received chemotherapy treatment there.
As of last year, there were only three private hospitals in Kuching with oncologists who deal with cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
However, some 80 to 90 per cent of cancer patients in Sarawak seek treatment at SGH, while only 10 to 20 per cent of them seek treatment at private hospitals.
As cancer treatment and access in Sarawak is limited, patients from as far as Miri at the other end of the state near Brunei, have no other alternative but to come to SGH for public treatment, which would take several days of travel.