Kuala Lumpur, 24 November 2017 — The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy today convened a round table discussion titled “Saving lives and surviving cancer in Malaysia”. Cancer survivors and their families, cancer NGOs, medical specialists, researchers and members of Parliment met to discuss the response to cancer in the country. Six policy recommendations were produced for consideration.
“Everyone was in agreement that it is absolutely vital for Malaysians to heed the Ministry of Health’s often-repeated call for early detection and screening to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Lives can be saved and cancer successfully treated through early detection. Current awareness programmes must have better commitment and increased funding, and target not only the general public, but also health professionals such as doctors and nurses who are at the frontline of primary healthcare. There needs to also be better integration into community health outreach programmes on non-communicable diseases such as the “Komuniti Sihat Perkasa Negara” (KOSPEN) programme,” said Galen Centre Chief Executive, Azrul Mohd Khalib.
“Meeting participants highlighted one particular struggle for many cancer survivors: they were often unable to claim benefits under SOCSO as long as they continued working. This deprived survivors of much needed assistance to help them through treatment, and forced them into serious financial hardship. Reform of existing relevant legislation is needed.”
“With today’s access to groundbreaking cancer research and availability of innovative drugs, it is possible to survive cancer. But our ability to save lives is dependent on a number of factors including increasing the amount of funding for healthcare, ensuring access to low cost or free cancer treatment, and bringing in the latest drugs into the country.”
“Increasing and sustaining the financing available for health are critical. Current studies presented at the meeting indicated that catastrophic conditions are experienced by cancer survivors and their families due to out of pocket payments regardless of whether they accessed public or private healthcare. Participants wholeheartedly agreed to support the government’s proposed public health insurance scheme.”
“The lack of supportive non-medical services such as survivorship programmes which cater towards physical, social, spiritual and emotional well-being was also highlighted as a key factor in determining treatment success and improving the quality of life for cancer survivors. The continued dependency on non-governmental organisations to fill the existing vacuum was deemed to be limited and unsustainable.”
“The findings presented at this meeting clearly demonstrated that Malaysia, as an upper middle income country, has the opportunity and ability to improve its response to cancer. Too many lives are being lost simply due to ignorance, late diagnosis, lack of funding or worse, socioeconomic disparities and realities which have nothing to do with the disease. We must and can do better for cancer survivors and their families,” Azrul concluded.
A document containing the summary of the meeting and policy recommendations will be finalised and published in mid-December 2017.
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