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Oncology contract to be disclosed soon

By MIRANDA LA ROSE Saturday, March 23 2013

The award of a contract for the building and equipping of the National Oncology Centre (NOC) in Mount Hope will be announced within another week or two, according to health systems adviser in the Ministry of Health, Stewart Smith.

Smith told reporters yesterday after the opening of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nursing Association (TTRNA) organised oncology nursing conference at the Capital Plaza, Port-of-Spain, that the evaluation of bids for the construction and equipment of the centre has been completed and the executing agency, the Urban Development Corporation of TT, is expected to inform the ministry within a week or two who would have won the contract.

He did not give an estimate of the current project, noting, however, that quantity surveying estimates for the previous plan in 1997 were in the sum of US$40 million for building of the centre only.

Construction and commission of the oncology centre, he said, should be completed within 24 months, with construction accounting for 18 months. It will be built on the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in the vicinity of the dental hospital and the University of the West Indies (UWI) Veterinary School.

Specifically, Smith said, the NOC will provide radiation therapy services, CT (computed tomography) simulation, treatment planning, high-dose radiation, brachytheraphy and chemotherapy, as well as state-of-the-art CT, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography)/CT diagnostic imaging services. Its features will include full pharmacy services and a laboratory to facilitate point-of-care testing.

According to Smith, when completed the centre will be the only one of its kind in the Caribbean.

The NOC is part of a comprehensive national strategy the Health Ministry has developed to address the specific needs of cancer patients, Smith as featured speaker told the opening of the conference.

The strategy also includes the passage of tobacco legislation, scholarships to nationals to do specialist training in oncology, and the creation of two bachelor degree programmes in oncology nursing and radiation therapy at UWI and the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of TT. It also includes the introduction of a pilot human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme for girls of school age.

Other strategies include the decentralisation of chemotherapy services to RHAs in which three units have already been established, and developing specialist centres of excellence in uro-oncology care, lung cancer and breast cancer at the National Radiation Centre (NRC).

The refurbishment of the NRC, he said, continues to be a priority and Cabinet has announced a $125 million upgrade. The upgrade will include the addition of a new operating theatre and a three-bed intensive care unit.

Meanwhile, quoting from the TT National Cancer Register over the period 1997-2007, Smith said the leading cancers for mortality were prostate, 20.4 percent; breast, 10.7 percent; colon and rectum, 9.8 percent; bronchus and lung, eight percent, and leukemia, 5.4 percent.

The leading cancers for male mortality was prostate, 37.3 percent; bronchus and lung, 11.6 percent; colon and rectum, 9.7 percent; stomach, 5.4 percent, and leukemia, 5.3 percent. Some 90 percent of neoplasm of the prostate occurred among men in the 65 to 85 age group.

Leading cancers for female mortality were breast, 23.1 percent; cervix uteri, 11.8 percent; colon and rectum, 9.9 percent; uterus, 8.3 percent, and ovary 7.3 percent.

Cancer, the second leading cause of mortality in TT, is estimated at 11 percent a year. In 2006, Smith said, cancer accounted for 13.7 percent and it was second only to ischemic heart disease.

Data suggest, he said, that 50 percent of cancer is curable, while 30 percent is preventable.

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