Aid for advanced cancer patients

Helping hands: Dr Parameswary doing a health check on a member of the public as Kit (standing centre) and others look on.

Helping hands: Dr Parameswary doing a health check on a member of the public as Kit (standing centre) and others look on.

MIRI: Needy cancer-patients in Sarawak, take note: There are caring hands being extended by the Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital in Penang to give financial sponsorship to those needing advanced cancer treatments in the hospital.

The Penang-based hospital is willing to offer financial sponsorship in part or in full for patients from poor financial backgrounds if they are confirmed to be in dire need of treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The funds will come from the Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital Needy Cancer Patients Fund that the hospital has set up to meet the costs of treatments for those patients who are not financially-well off.

The Star yesterday spoke to the hospital’s corporate development assistant manager Kit Lam.

Kit was in Miri city with medical officer Dr Parameswary Subramanian and several others to carry out free blood tests and health checks for members of the public and hold talks with the Miri Human Life Service Centre and Miri Palliative Care organisers.

Kit admitted that not many people in Sarawak are aware of the services and financial sponsorship that Mount Miriam provides.

“We have established some links with hospitals and concerned organisations in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, but we want to spread our links with other places in East Malaysia so that we can create greater awareness of what we can offer to cancer patients from needy background.

“We come here to Miri because Miri has direct flights to Penang, just like Kuching and Kota Kinabalu and that makes it easier for cancer-afflicted patients from here to fly to Penang,” she said.

According to Kit, Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital in Penang was established in 1976 by a group of Catholic missionaries — the Sisters of Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood.

The idea for the hospital came from the late Bishop Francis Chan of Penang who was the first local Catholic Bishop of Penang.

“In 1963, Bishop Chan was diagnosed with cancer and he realised the need to have a proper centre to help those afflicted with the disease because at that time, there was no palliative care for cancer patients.

“So he donated a church land and built a centre. In the beginning, the centre was just a home offering compassionate care for those in the advanced stages of cancer.

“The Bishop said that there was a need for treatment facilities, not just a shelter to house those in the late stages of cancer, so Mount Miriam later progressed into a cancer treatment centre (in 1976) while continuing with its palliative care.

“Today, we are among the leading cancer treatment hospitals in Malaysia offering a variety of treatment services relating to treating the dreaded cancer while the primary aim of providing compassionate and holistic care for patients remains our top focus,” she said.

Kit said the hospital provided sponsored treatment for needy patients from all walks of life, regardless of race, religion and age.

“As long as they are needy in the financial terms, and are Malaysians, they are qualified to apply for financial sponsorship from the hospital for treatment there.

“We will check through the financial background of patients and determine if they are truly unable to afford to pay for the full fees.

“Let’s say that RM20,000 is needed for chemotherapy or radiotherapy but the patient can only pay for RM10,000, we will sponsor the rest from our funds. If the patient truly cannot afford to pay at all, we will sponsor in full if the funds are enough.

“It all depends on individual cases. We carry out annual fund-raising programmes to garner enough funds to sponsor needy patients.

“We aim to collect at least RM1 million per year so that we will have a reserve of ready funds to help the poor patients,” she said.

Kit said the hospital hoped to establish more links with people in other towns in Sarawak, such as Sibu and Bintulu and other smaller towns so that more Sarawakians would be made aware of the help that the hospital could give to cancer-afflicted people.

She also expressed the hope that wealthy individuals and organisations in Sarawak would contribute generously to the Mount Miriam fund so that the hospital could cater to the increasing number of cancer patients every year.

Contributions to the fund can be considered for tax-exemption.