Crowded waiting areas, patients sharing consultation room, cramped chemotherapy treatment room, limited beds for those warded for haematological cancer treatment are just some of the issues faced by patients who travel to RTU at SGH for treatment. For many years RTU has been treating cancer patients from the whole state of Sarawak.
The current RTU department has not seen much proper upgrading over the years. Staff have made some improvements to cater to the ever increasing number of patients by converting storage room to expand the chemotherapy treatment area. Basic facilities like increasing the number of toilets is also an issue.
Why a cancer hospital? We hope it will house additional and better diagnostic machines, increase in the number of hospital beds and more healthcare professionals trained (clinical oncologists, nurses, technicians and counsellors). With a conducive environment health care providers can work better and treat patients better. Hopefully to reduce the waiting time for patients to get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan.
Geographically Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia. There is only ONE public oncological service and 4 private oncological service available in the state. All these services are only available in KUCHING. Cancer treatments though costly is heavily subsidized by the government in Sarawak General Hospital, unfortunately it’s the cost of other expenses that that puts a toll for those in the lower income group.
Non-treatment expenses are the causes of financial strain for patients and their families. Transportation costs by air or by land are additional expenses. A patient living in Miri has to travel over 700km to get consultation from a specialist. If treatment is required, they need to prepare their time and funds for transportation, accommodation and food. Time is also needed for treatment and many do suffer a loss of income or jobs during this period.
We hope the relevant ministry will be able to provide financial assistance to them, to lessen their burden. There are programs like Mysalam to assist those in need but there are many who do not meet the criteria even though they are in the lower income group.
Science and technology is making advancements daily in the improvement of cancer medications and treatment. Unfortunately, new drugs are costly and not subsidized. Many in the lower income group cannot afford it and those in the M40 group also struggle to come up with funds for these new medication.
Many give up treatment along the way and succumb to the disease which treatment would have helped improve their life. Advancements in targeted therapy and immunotherapy for cancer patients can cost from RM6000 to RM15 000 or more per treatment.
Subsidizing such treatments, will greatly improve the lives of cancer patients. With such drugs, advanced cancers can be treated and controlled. Patients will be able to carry on living quality life with their families and contribute to society.