ST JOHN’S, Antigua – In what could be described as an elaborate, dynamic and moving ceremony, the ground broke yesterday signalling the start of construction of the EC $13.5 million Cancer Centre Eastern Caribbean.
The state-of-the-art facility, the brainchild of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, was birthed in 2009 during a regional health care symposium when government officials expressed interest in developing a partnership with the private sector to equip a cancer centre in Antigua with the latest oncology services and technical expertise.
Years later through the collaborative efforts of the Antiguan government, governments of the OECS sub-region, Global Health Partners Ltd and MEI Healthcare Incorporated, this dream is now a reality.
Spencer, who was among the many dignitaries attending the function yesterday, said the completion of the facility would save the regional governments millions spent on care and treatment annually.
He said Antigua & Barbuda alone spends at least US $15,000 on radiation for cancer patients.
“We have an opportunity here to turn the tables and become producers and not just consumers of this very important service. This means more monies circulating in our currency union,” Spencer told the gathering.
The prime minister said it is also his understanding that the centre will become an accredited institution through the Cancer Centre in the Bahamas, which is presently the only accredited facility in the hemisphere outside of North America.
Expected to be completed before the end of the year, the multi-faceted centre is to provide high-quality medical, radiation and surgical oncology services for government-supported patients in the region.
Speaking to the aesthetics of the building, Dr Arthur Porter, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Cancer Centre, said that what was going into the centre should be of superb international quality because this is what the citizenry deserves.
The centre will feature equipment similar to the Cancer Centre Bahamas’ Varian Unique Linear Accelerator, and will be capable of intensity-modulated radiation therapy and image-guided radiation therapy.
The board of directors of the Cancer Centre Eastern Caribbean includes Dr Porter, professor of medicine and oncology; former superintendent of the Medical Benefits Scheme Cotrille George; Vice chairman Professor Karol Sikora; Elenora Warner; Jeffrey Joseph; Professor Don Ragan; Gregory Georges; MEI Inc representative Randall Arlett; ex-officio member Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas; and secretary to the board Martin Camacho.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)