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The practices of doctors in SVG need to be monitored

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Editor: In the May 22, 2015 edition of the Searchlight newspaper there was the story entitled “Cancer is leading cause of death in SVG,” where Dr Rosmond Adams stated several pertinent reasons for the alarming increase of cancer cases in the country.{{more}}

I agree with many of his points in regards to the causes of cancer. However, the statement that screening programmes are sufficient to prevent incidents of death from cancer is not totally correct. In some cases it can prevent cancer, but it also serves as early detection. If detected early, cancers are more curable. Even with proper screening, there is still a chance that cancer will be missed. It will require more than screening; it will require follow-up care, appropriate medicine, and having access to proper health care. It includes a lot. He also mentioned that “We are trying to move in a way to deliver more quality health care services in a way to address the rising mortality from cancer and other non-communicable diseases.” I agree with the move towards quality health care. However, this can be problematic when some of the doctors in the country are negligent in their care of patients.

My father currently has metastatic stage IV prostate cancer. Yes, he did not see a doctor until symptoms appeared. Even then, the doctor kept telling him he has an infection and repeatedly prescribed him antibiotics. Because my parents live in St Vincent and the Grenadines and I am based in the United States, I did not fully understand the gravity of the situation. A person who is over the age of 60, comes into your office with particular symptoms of cancer and one does not conduct a physical examination? It is a “no-brainer” to do a simple blood test or a rectal examination. Indeed this is medicine “101.” However, my father’s doctor did none of the above. In another case, a gentlemen dies from cancer a week after arriving in the United States. Again, he kept going to the doctors in SVG and was given different reasons for his illness, including having an ulcer. In another instance, a particular physician has been known to tell patients or their families that “they should go beg for the money before he can perform the necessary surgery/procedure.”

Such behaviour only reinforces the inefficiencies in the health care system. These types of practices are unethical, show unprofessionalism, gross negligence and a lack of respect and compassion for patients. Yes, the cost of cancer treatment can be astronomical, especially in a developing nation. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, cancer cost is increasing at a rate of about 15 per cent per year. The cost is driven by the treatment and new cancer drugs. Even with these daunting statistics, cancer doesn’t have to be leading cause of death in SVG. The health care workers, including the physicians, need to take an interest in patient care and practise “MEDICINE”. If someone comes to your office, prescribing antibiotics without a proper examination and necessary blood work is not practising medicine. Therefore, the incidents of cancer and other non-communicable diseases will continue to rise until measures are taken to monitor the practices of doctors. Establishing a cancer-register will help in tracking the disease, but it is not going to solve the problem if the physicians are inept, inefficient, incompetent and do not care about their patients. Also, along with the registers, a comprehensive plan will be needed to address the jaw-dropping cost of cancer treatment.

Udean Mars Williams

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