COVID limits show need for Freeport cancer centre


Tribune Freeport Reporter


THE inability of cancer patients to receive oncology care during the COVID-19 pandemic due to travel restrictions and the lockdown has highlighted the urgent need again for an oncology centre in Freeport.

Grand Bahama cancer patients that travel to New Providence for chemotherapy at Princess Margaret Hospital were unable to do so during the five-month shutdown imposed in early March through July 1.

Portia Ebrahim, president of the Cancer Society of the Bahamas in Grand Bahama, indicated that the absence of oncology services and care in Freeport is a big concern for cancer patients.

While speaking at a recent Rotary Club of Grand Bahama Zoom meeting in light of Breast Cancer Month, she called on Rotarians to help bring attention to this urgent matter.

“Recently, during the COVID-19 lockdown, we encountered challenges as cancer patients here in GB with not being able to have our treatments done due to no flights,” she said. And so, it made our immediate circle more aware of our plight as cancer patients being unable to receive treatment and care at the oncology center in Nassau at PMH for public patients.”

Ms Ebrahim – who was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) in April 2019 - had a mastectomy in May last year and began chemotherapy last July. She completed her chemo treatments in January and is currently on a hormonal-targeted treatment.

She stated it had been a difficult situation for her and other patients from Grand Bahama that have to travel into Nassau for treatments.

“We had a long trying battle with trying to maintain our treatments, and so we are pushing the idea for an oncology center here in GB, especially for the northern Bahamas,” said Ms Ebrahim.

“We are in need of an oncology centre. I have made a request and spoken to members of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, and I have sent an official request to the president of the Port Authority requesting assistance with a possible location, a building for a cancer unit here in Freeport,” she said.

Although she has not gotten a response as yet, Ms Ebrahim said that she is not going to give up on that idea.

The Cancer Society, said Ms Ebrahim, has also made an appeal to the previous and the current government again asking for assistance.

According to statistics, Grand Bahama has the highest cancer rates in the country.

Ms Ebrahim said it is expensive for cancer patients to travel to New Providence for treatment.

To cut costs, Ms Ebrahim goes in the morning and returns on the same day.

When asked the cost of treatment, Ms Ebrahim said it varies between $7,000 to $30,000 for public patients, depending on the treatment.

In June 2017, then Health Minister Duane Sands said that a cancer treatment centre would be created in Grand Bahama so patients can receive chemotherapy on the island instead of having to go to New Providence.

Dr Sands, who has since resigned from the post, had indicated at the time that cancer services would be available on the island before the end of the year.


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