On Friday, I asked the Planning Minister, Richard Maru, what he thought about the lack of cancer treatment facilities in Papua New Guinea. The questions was directed to him as Planning Minister and a member of the government.
Minister Maru didn’t have all the answers but he said he would bring the Health Minister, Dr. Puka Temu, with him to Lae on his next visit.
Cancer affects a relatively small population of people in Papua New Guinea compared to other illnesses like malaria and TB. But it is one of the most expensive to treat and puts an enormous financial burden on an increasing number of families in papua New Guinea.
Like many others have also been affected, cancer has also affected Richard Maru’s family. In the next sitting of Parliament, he says he will be supporting the legislation to enable the revitalization of the National Cancer treatment center in Lae.
The disease doesn’t discriminate.
Every week, Papua New Guinean families are fundraising to send a loved one overseas. For one family, I know of, they have decided to make life comfortable for their dear mum, because the cancer is already in its advanced stages.
Every family affected by cancer needs to raise up to K150,000 to go to the Philippines for treatment. It is the ‘cheapest’ option for them. Of course, many of the costs are presented in US dollars. The low value of the Kina doesn’t help at all.
The costs are relatively higher in Australia depending on where you look and what you want.
An industry has developed on the back of suffering Papua New Guinean families willing to pay big money. “Medical tourism,” they call it. Small Philippine SMEs are offering transport options, important contacts, accommodation options and more depending on your budget.
It is absolutely disgusting when this is allowed to happen.
Why has it taken seven years for Parliament to pass that legislation governing the use and transportation of cobalt, the radioactive material used in cancer treatment? Is it because of a lack of understanding? A lack of will?
Families who don’t have K150,000 have to work very hard to raise it. There is a general feeling of weariness but people still find the strength to go on, to ask other families to support the fundraising activities for their mother, sister or daughter.
A large number of men also need the same kind of help. But they get less attention. Maybe many more continue will turn a blind eye to this lingering problem until it comes knocking on our doors.