Fiji welcomes atomic agency with aim for cancer facility
Fiji aiming for cancer treatment facility in three years, and seeks international donors.
Fiji is aiming to have a cancer treatment facility within three years, and is seeking international donors to help.
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency has been in Fiji this week to assess the health system as a whole and advise on how it can improve.
While doctors say prevention is going well in Fiji, the cure is what costs the most, and many Pacific countries can't afford it.
Alex Perrottet reports.
On World Cancer Day last month, the Deputy Director General of the IAEA, Kwaku Aning, said it was an "immense human tragedy" that cancer claims nearly 15 per cent of deaths globally, and there's a shortage of 5,000 radiography machines in the developing world. In those countries, there are 4.8 million cancer deaths each year, compared to 1.1 million from tuberculosis, 2.1 million from HIV AIDS, and more than 700,000 from malaria.
The Pacific Coordinator of Noncommunicable Diseases of the World Health Organisation, Dr Temo Waqanivalu, says Fiji does a good job on the prevention of cancer but the disease isn't on the main radar of Pacific health systems.
DR TEMO WAQANIVALU:Because of costs, mostly and the required skills and expertise to actually run some of the proven and effective clinical interventions like the radiotherapy, that's where the health system in the Pacific definitely struggles with and this effort by Fiji is one of the first few stepping into that space.
The seven-member team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is in Fiji to help plan a cancer treatment facility. The Minister of Health, Dr Neil Sharma, invited the team after Fiji joined the IAEA in 2012. He says the oncology unit is in their sights, and it will cater for Fiji and for the region.
DR NEIL SHARMA: We've done our groundwork, we have interest from Israel from India, from China, from Taiwan, we have an interest group from Australia also so the private sector is quite ready to roll out, and it's just a matter of seeing what the international atomic commission can offer and then we need to put every piece of the jigsaw together and say right, yes, we can make this possible in three years.
Dr Arsen Juric, who couldn't be recorded, is coordinating the visit, and says due to the high rates for breast and cervical cancer, their recommendations will include ways of reducing those mortality rates specifically.
Dr Sharma says the team will advise him broadly.
DR NEIL SHARMA: They are looking at our information gathering, data systems, they're looking at what facilities we have, they're looking at possible sites where we would establish the units and based on those strategic endpoints they will then advise me as to where we should be heading.
Dr Arsen Juric says the team has visited Suva, Nadi, Lautoka and some rural hospitals and says the agency may help with funding for radiography machines, but it will be in conjunction with other partners, and it must be integrated within a national health plan.
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