Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 06, 2016 (SKNIS): Tuesday’s (December 06) opening of the first Oncology Unit in St. Kitts was described as the “dawn of a new and brighter day for cancer care in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.”


At a ceremony to mark the launch at the Joseph N. France (JNF) General Hospital, Chief Surgeon and Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, said he has worked at the health institution for the past 20 years and have seen the health services transformed to offer the best quality healthcare to residents, albeit with scarce resources. The addition of the JNF Oncology Unit is expected to raise the profile of the health system in St. Kitts, much like the prior additions of an Emergency Medical Service, Intensive Care Unit and Haemodialysis Unit continue to do.


“Starting this week, we will be treating patients with common malignancies that we see here like breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid cancer and several [types of] leukemia,” Dr. Wilkinson said.


In the past, residents were forced to travel overseas to access oncologic treatment such as chemotherapy. The chief of staff said Barbados, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, or the United States were likely destinations and the cost associated with such was particularly high.


“A few could afford and did well. Some got assistance and received full or partial treatment. Some, however, could not afford to travel and expired,” he said.


Where assistance was available from the government, officials were forced to make difficult choices, prioritizing cases as to who would receive help first such as the young versus the old or cases of patients with stage two cancer versus stage four. The new Oncology Unit now eliminates the need for these types of decision.


“This center will add years to the lives of people living with cancer,” Dr. Wilkinson said. “This center will ensure that breadwinners in families [do] not simply succumb to their disease but continue their active lives while they receive the appropriate and timely treatment. This center will ensure that no one will die because they could not afford to travel overseas for treatment.”


Critically important as well is the support that friends and family can offer to cancer patients. With the availability of local treatment, more persons are able to support and express encouragement for patients which research suggests has a positive impact on the healing process. Additionally, notes that hospital stays for cancer patients are “shorter than they used to be” and family caregivers which can include spouses, partners, children relatives or friends, “do many things that used to be done in the hospital or doctor’s office by healthcare providers.”


The unit will be run by an Oncology Specialist from the Republic of Cuba and specialist nurses from the Philippines will work along with local staff, helping them to learn, while they gain the knowledge, experience and training to eventually perform the required services. Dr. Wilkinson said a similar practice was done in the year 2000 when specialist nurses from the Philippines were recruited on a temporary basis to work in the Intensive Care Unit when it opened and again in the year 2013 for the Haemodialysis Unit.

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