Conference gets 45,000 guilders in subsidy – Government makes cancer a priority

POSTED: 10/16/12 1:24 PM

St. Maarten – The Public Health Ministry has put 45,000 guilders (just over $25,000) into hosting the first ever cancer conference on St.Maarten in collaboration with several local non-governmental organizations and agencies such as SZV, the St. Laboratory Services and the St.Maarten Medical Centre.

The conference is set for next week Friday and Saturday October 26 and 27 at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort and Casino under the theme Cancer and Aging, Collectively Improving Our Local Cancer Care and Responsibility.

“The main question that is going to be answered in this conference is how to collectively structure local cancers services and registry. The registry is the part of registering and knowing the numbers of cancer patients regardless of the type. That is important for us to establish and build on.  All of these organizations are trying to get the word out and we decided why don’t we come up with a plan to synchronize our efforts by organizing a cancer conference to address all of these issues and come up with a plan on the way we move forward when it comes to cancer in general,” Minister of Public Health Cornelius de Weever said while speaking on the conference’s objective.

His ministry called a press conference yesterday at the A.C Wathey Legislative Hall to increase the awareness on the activity which stems from the Pan-American Health Organization’s (PAHO) Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases 2008-2013.

Interim Head of Section General Public Health, Maria Henry said that the plan “should be looked at and certain adjustments made in regard to care and treatment. In St. Maarten we will look at the four major cancers which are prostate, colon rectal breast and cervical cancers. Even though there are is in need of attention, those four will be looked at during the cancer conference.

We will sit and discuss the policy and review the plan from PAHO to see how St.Maarten can look at those ideas to see if we can adjust the limited resources we have and adjust our structures to be able to get information, increase awareness and to pay attention to the diagnosis methodology used and improve our treatment. We will be looking at the health care providers too.”

President of the Positive Foundation Shelly Alphonso emphasized the need for the entire community to be involved in the activity.

 “We intend to send an invitation to the population to get involved. We are especially grateful that government has seen the need to bring us together as a group to be able to give this matter the attention that it needs. Interestingly enough, it should be able to determine where treatment goes from this point onwards.”

Graciella Zimmerman, the public relations officer of St. Maarten Cancer Foundation said that, “Before, cancer use to be a disease that affected distant relatives. But right now it is affecting us and people close to us. That fact that the government put together this conference shows the seriousness of this disease. The more awareness and information we gather on this disease, the better we can start to prevent it.”

The two day conference will feature several speakers including Professor Trevor Hassell, Adjunct Professor of Medicine, University of the West Indies, Barbados, Collective Prevention Services Head Dr. Virginia Oostburg, Aruban oncologist Dr. Henk Wassenaar, breast cancer survivor Dr. Jennifer Alexander of Jamaica, gynecologist Dr. Igor Gomes Bravio of Costa Rica and Dr. Carmen Coronel of Curacao and registered nurse Jasen Cijntje.

When asked how many persons were diagnosed with cancer on the island in lieu of the multi-sector conference being held, public health officials could not give a definitive answer.

“We are looking at the health management information system that will provide the data that we need, but in the meantime we have to suffice with the small numbers that we do have to begin with. We have a lot of information all over the place such as SZV and the general practitioners but it is not synchronized to give us exactly what we want, how we want. So this how we are trying to start to begin this process of collecting the information and having a proper registry so that we do know. But for right now we do not have an exact number,” de Weever said.

Henry was quick to add that “In St. Maarten there is a need for data and numbers in all arenas of our health so that we can do better projections.  We have to discuss this and we will be doing that during this conference with the representatives of St. Maarten Medical Centre who are also on the program.”

The target audience for the activity includes legislators, policy makers, health care providers, patients and family members and insurance agencies.

Broad headings for the conference are policy and advocacy, health promotion and cancer prevention, cancer management and monitoring and surveillance. Several cancer survivors will also share their life experiences with those in attendance.

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