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Antigua and Barbuda set to reopen Cancer Center

Saint John, Jan 6 (Prensa Latina) The country’s Cancer Centre which has been closed since last April is tipped to reopen to patients within months.

This week’s Cabinet notes said the refurbished facility complete with new and better machines would be operational within the first quarter of this year.

The center’s closure more than eight months ago has seen local cancer patients forced to travel overseas for life-saving radiotherapy treatment previously available on island.

For Eunetta Bird, of cancer support group Breast Friends, its reopening cannot come soon enough.

She spoke to Observer of the expenses patients are racking up for travel to Colombia.

“It is very costly. We thought that medical benefit was paying for the treatment as well as the ticket for patients, but that is not the case. It’s not automatic really, but they do pay for the treatment. But patients are responsible for their tickets. Roughly the ticket is around 5000 EC. Accommodation may cost depending because some of them stay very long. They stay in up to like 6 to 9 weeks for treatment some people so accommodation is heavy”.

Bird also spoke about the emotional toll on patients having to travel overseas for treatment.

“The sooner the better. It would be really a relief for cancer patients, and we just hope that they would hurry up and do something about it and have it open. You don’t just want talk and promises. We really want to see action.

People have to leave their children behind their jobs, whereas if they were in Antigua having their treatment, they could still go to work after, even if they can’t go the same day that they’ve had treatment in a couple of days, they, you know, able to go back to work.

But if they were having their treatment here but having to leave your family and your job and everything behind for six weeks, it’s not easy.”

The Cancer Centre was closed due to financial problems and its reopening has been hindered by disagreement over its value.

The government’s valuator gave it a price tag of between 6 and 9 million EC dollars – significantly lower than the majority shareholder’s demand of 40 million.

The government acquired the center last month by compulsory purchase.

The facility, originally intended for use by cancer patients across the OECS, opened in June 2015.

It provided radiotherapy for both private patients and those covered by the Medical Benefits Scheme.