Cancer support groups praise increased healthcare spending

PETALING JAYA: Several cancer support groups have lauded Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad's recent announcement for his ministry to increase healthcare spending from 6% to 7% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The groups said the additional budget will go a long way to solve the problems faced by patients, especially among low and middle-income patients seeking treatment at public hospitals.

"There needs to be investments in the whole spectrum of cancer care - from screening, early diagnosis, timely treatment and good quality palliative care of patients," said National Cancer Society of Malaysia medical director Dr. M. Muralitharan in a statement on Sunday (May 27).

He added that medical innovation in cancer treatment is progressing rapidly but said that such innovations have yet to be made available in public hospitals.

Similar views were shared by Breast Cancer Welfare Association president Ranjit Kaur who said that early diagnosis and timely cancer treatment would result in lower costs to the Government and better care for patients.

The groups also lauded the Government's healthcare manifesto which focuses on cancer care.

It said projections from the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed that the number of new cancer cases in Malaysia are expected to escalate by 54% from 37,000 cases in 2012 to 56,932 cases in 2025.

They also called on the Pakatan Harapan administration to implement a national health insurance scheme in a transparent and equitable manner.

Both groups urged the ministry to focus on cancers that are most prevalent with a high risk of impoverishment within a year of diagnosis and invest in strengthening and sustaining good cancer care.

They added that the mindset amongst policy makers and healthcare staff that cancer control is too expensive or a burden to the public health system needs to change.

Meanwhile, Society for Cancer Awareness and Advocacy Kuching president Sew Boon Lui urged Dr Dzulkefly to be inclusive in his approach and engage with patient groups, affected patients and caregivers before making policy decisions.

She adds that Sarawak was in dire need of skilled medical manpower, particularly oncologists, and bigger cancer treatment facilities to cope with rising demand in healthcare.

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