Move to cut waiting period

CYBERJAYA: The waiting period for cancer patients receiving treatment depends on several factors, including the urgency, says Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

He said that to address waiting time, public hospitals will also cooperate with private operators if necessary when handling cancer cases to ensure better treatment.

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He said depending on the severity and urgency, some patients could receive treatment as early as within a month of being diagnosed.

“The long waiting time for treatment at public hospitals has been a challenge for us.

“However, if patients have been diagnosed (with cancer) during screening, the family medical specialist at public health clinics will refer them to general hospitals for treatment,” he told reporters after launching World Cancer Day 2024 at University of Cyberjaya here yesterday.

Also present was Health director-general Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan.

Preventive measure: Maisarah Zulkiflie, a physiotherapist from Adipolabs Healthcare (M) Sdn Bhd, attending to a woman at the exhibition booth during the World Cancer Day 2024 event in Cyberjaya. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The StarPreventive measure: Maisarah Zulkiflie, a physiotherapist from Adipolabs Healthcare (M) Sdn Bhd, attending to a woman at the exhibition booth during the World Cancer Day 2024 event in Cyberjaya. — RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

Dzulkefly said that to further strengthen cancer treatment facilities in the country, the ministry has been collaborating with teaching hospitals under the Higher Education Ministry.

“We do this (working with universities) so that we can reduce the waiting time (at public hospitals), aside from cooperating with private hospitals,” he said.

Dr Muhammad Radzi said patients could even receive immediate treatment a day after receiving the results of their cancer screening.

“It depends on the urgency of the case, if it’s severe, we can even provide treatment the next day.

“There should not be any issue of long waiting time for treatment as our service at the Health Ministry is to reach the community at every level,” he added.

Cancer cases have been increasing in Malaysia, with 168,822 reported cases between 2017 and 2021, according to the Malaysian Cancer Registry.

Currently, Hospital Sultan Ismail (Johor), Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun (Ipoh), Penang Hospital, Institut Kanser Negara (Kuala Lumpur), Sabah Women and Children Hospital as well as Sarawak General Hospital are the cancer centres under the Health Ministry.

There are also university hospitals under the Higher Education Ministry that offer cancer treatment.

Dzulkefly said the latest addition to cancer treatment in Malaysia is the Sarawak Cancer Centre, which is supported by both the federal and state governments.

“And in Sarawak, we aim to set up satellite radiotherapy centres in Miri and Sibu, while in Sabah, the centres will be set up in Sandakan and Tawau between 2030 and 2040,” he said.

Dzulkefly said the theme for World Cancer Day 2024, “Close the Care Gap”, is apt as the focus is on “patient-centred care”.

He said a whole-of-nation approach in addressing cancer screening, treatment and care would provide physical and psychological well-being for patients.

He added that as the number of cancer cases has been increasing, integrated cancer care backed by “supportive” cancer care will be able to provide more focused care services to patients.

“The delivery of cancer care in Malaysia involves various fields, professions and disciplines, which include the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

“Malaysian cancer NGOs are committed and active in providing comprehensive delivery of support throughout the spectrum of cancer care, from prevention to research,” Dzulkefly said.

The ministry co-organised the event with the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM), University of Cyberjaya, Malaysian Medical Association and more than 20 NGOs.

During the event, Life Insurance Association Malaysia pledged to sponsor a total of 100,000 human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine doses.

Currently, the vaccination drive helmed by NCSM is ongoing with the collaboration with MPs, government agencies and local NGOs to identify women from vulnerable groups who have yet to be inoculated.

“This pledge proves the spirit of collaboration between civil society groups in efforts to put an end to cervical cancer and protect 100,000 women and teenagers,” said NCSM president Datuk Dr S. Saunthari.

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