KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — The Society for Cancer Advocacy and Awareness Kuching (SCAN) has reiterated the need to build a public specialist cancer hospital in Sarawak by 2026.
The cancer patient group cited Sarawak Deputy Premier Dr Sim Kui Hian’s pledge for a cancer hospital and the Sarawak state government’s willingness to share the cost of funding the facility.
“There is a clear need for a cancer hospital in Sarawak to address the current shortage of beds, inadequate chemotherapy facilities, reduced operating theatre capacity, and need for radiotherapy facilities upgrade,” SCAN said in a statement in Kuching, Sarawak, last Saturday.
“These issues have a significant impact on the care and support available to cancer patients in Sarawak, and addressing them is essential for improving cancer care in the region.”
According to the DayakDaily, Dr Sim said last month that he hoped that the federal government would approve an allocation for a cancer centre in Sarawak by 2023. It was proposed that the cancer centre be built in the vicinity of the Sarawak Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan.
Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa reportedly said last Saturday in Segamat, Johor, that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is focused on completing hospitals already under construction, but has no plans to build new public hospitals.
However, Dr Zaliha did say that the MOH will “focus on making improvements and upgrading facilities at existing hospitals and health centres nationwide, including Sabah and Sarawak”.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, a government backbencher from the DAP, posted earlier this afternoon about his lunch meeting with Dr Zaliha, Dr Sim, Deputy Health Minister Lukanisman Awang Sauni, as well as Sarawak state health department director Dr Ooi Choo Huck in Kuching to discuss the state’s health care needs.
“Will be working closely with the Ministry of Health and different stakeholders to find ways to address health care issues in Sarawak as a whole,” Dr Yii said on Facebook.
SCAN said in its statement that participants of the Sarawak Patients Organisation Knowledge Exchange (SPOKE) – a platform that brings together cancer-related non-government organisations (NGOs) organised by SCAN – have identified a range of important issues for cancer patients and their families.
“These included the need for a cancer hospital with improved amenities and diagnostic equipment, better patient psychosocial support and financial assistance, improved services and more trained healthcare professionals, improved information technology and expansion of cancer research,” SCAN said.
“By addressing these issues, the Sarawak Cancer Hospital can provide comprehensive and effective care and support to cancer patients in the region.”
SCAN president Chris Cheng pointed out that Sarawak only has one hospital equipped with complete cancer care – Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) – despite being the largest state in the country.
“It is our duty as patient organisations to make sure that everyone including those in the remote areas of Sarawak have access to cancer care,” Cheng said.
“In line with the Union for international Cancer Control’s (UICC) World Cancer Day theme, ‘Close the Care Gap’, it is our ardent wish that better cancer care will be available for all patients in Sarawak, especially those from underserved communities, so that together these patients will also be able to see many tomorrows.”
SCAN founding president and patient advocate Sew Boon Lui said last October that the over three-decade old SGH building, which houses the oncology unit, has bed shortages in existing wards and limited space in the chemotherapy room.
“Shortage of consultation rooms, where two patients are seen by two MOs (medical officers) in the same small room, is a common phenomenon,” Sew told CodeBlue.