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DOH eyes 9 cancer centers for indigents

/ 06:33 AM September 06, 2013

Health Secretary Enrique Ona. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—With 85,000 new cancer cases in the country every year—and the number expected to double in the next decade—the government is planning to open by 2015 nine oncology centers that will treat indigents with certain types of cancer for free, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said on Thursday.

Ona said the Department of Health (DOH) was already bidding out the P3 billion project, which will be done through public-private partnership agreements, to set up oncology centers that will cover various regions from northern Luzon to southern Mindanao.

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“Patients need not come to Cebu, Manila or Davao for treatment. It will be made available in the smaller cities that are nearer to them,” Ona said at the launch of the Oncourage, a cancer awareness campaign initiated by the Novartis pharmaceutical company, in Makati.

The oncology centers will be manned by cancer specialists and equipped for chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other forms of cancer treatment, he said.

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“It is said that there are no specialists outside the big cities because cancer treatment is too expensive for those living in the provinces. To a certain extent, there’s truth to that,” Ona said.

“We have clusters (of areas) with five million people or about the size of Singapore but there are no (cancer specialists). That will change. The moment you have these centers and put in the service, the doctors will come,” he added.

Ona said the DOH plans to put up the centers in Tuguegarao, Cabanatuan, Dagupan, Naga, Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Zambonga City, either Bacolod or Iloilo, and somewhere in Eastern Visayas.

Indigents with cancer disease could go to these centers and get their treatment for free if the cancer that they have is one of those covered by PhilHealth, the government universal health insurance program, he said.

He said the government has allocated P35 billion in the 2014 budget to cover the health needs of 14 million Filipino families who are “poor or near poor.”

“You can just imagine the implication of that in terms of making sure that the poor has access to medical care. We will also expand the list of cancer cases covered by PhilHealth,” Ona said.

“We’ve started with leukemia in children, early colon cancer, early prostate cancer … we intend to expand that. But we also have to make sure that we can afford it,” he added.

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Ona cited recent studies showing a “steady increase” of cancer cases in the Philippines.

“From 12.57 million, it will increase to 16 million by 2020. That is indeed worrisome. The 85,000 annual new cases will double in the next decade,” Ona said.

“So it is important to spread cancer awareness. We need to tell people how it can be prevented,” he added.

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TAGS: Department of Health, DoH, Enrique Ona, Novartis, oncology, Oncourage
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