Government is investing US $14.5 million to set up two cancer treatment centres equipped with state-of-the-art equipment to deliver the most advanced cancer care to Jamaicans as well as others in the region and beyond.
Funding for the undertaking involves a partnership between the National Health Fund (NHF) and the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, as well as contributions from the private sector.
Minister of Health Dr. Fenton Ferguson and representatives of the United States-based Varian Medical Systems signed the contract last week for the treatment centres, which will be established at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston and Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay.
The facilities will be outfitted with linear accelerator LINAC machines, which are the most modern technology in radiotherapy treatment. They will also have a CT simulator, C-arm mobile X-ray unit, brachytherapy machine with treatment planning system and related quality assurance equipment.
Speaking at the signing ceremony held at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites in New Kingston, Dr. Ferguson said the initiative represents one of the “biggest investments” by the government in the provision of equipment and service to the country’s health sector.
He said the facilities would enable the most vulnerable Jamaicans to access high-quality cancer treatment free of cost.
“[The equipment will – Ed.] reduce the cost significantly … for the most vulnerable in our society, to zero,” the minister said.
He said patients from other countries could also receive treatment at the cancer centres.
“Having these linear machines, we must market them … to the Caribbean region and the wider North America, in order to deliver … quality care to the people of the region and globally,” Dr. Ferguson said.
Vice President of Sales and Operations at Varian Medical Systems C. Brett Jackson explained that the advanced radiation therapy was designed to deliver a high dosage of treatment to the cancerous area, while minimiszing exposure of healthy tissue and critical organs.
“It is delivering these beams at 191 control points. Earlier systems might use two or four or eight. So this system has a lot of advantages,” he said.
“The other advantage is that the delivery time is two minutes. Conventional systems can take 10 or more minutes for a delivery. So, not only does that provide for more patients being treated per day, reducing patient waiting time, but also there are situations where the patient can’t remain still for 10 or more minutes, such as those who are injured or infants and children. It reduces the chance of motion, which can compromise the quality of the treatment.”
LINAC Steering Committee Chairman and NHF Chief Executive Officer Everton Anderson said the first centre is slated to be operational in one year and the second facility in 18 months.