HealthCare Global Enterprises (HCG), an Indian-based supplier of specialist cancer treatments, is in the Maldives this week to consult with authorities and private medical companies over possible partnerships to treat the disease, an area of medicine that health officials is limited locally.
Speaking today to Minivan News, Bhavani Shankar, head of international marketing for HCG, said the company was in the early stages of consulting private and public healthcare providers in the country, along with the operators of Male’s ADK hospital and Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IMGH) over a number of potential opportunities for cancer treatment.
“Basically there is no cancer treatment here. Only a few facilities are there; medical oncology, chemotherapy and some small investigation procedures are available in the Maldives,” he claimed. “Most people are flying to India [for cancer treatment], about 600 to 750 people are doing this each year.”
Claiming to operate more than 18 specialist centres across India and South Asia either directly or through partnerships , Shankar said that the company was experienced in providing specialised surgeries and state of the art cancer treatments throughout the region.
“We have a variety of facilities and technologies such as the ‘CyberKnife’ robotic radio surgery, radiotherapy as well as offering other surgical procedures,” he said. “We can offer screening in the country before considering flying people out to India for treatment, which is the easiest option.”
In contemplating potential healthcare roles or business opportunities within the country, the HCG spokesperson said the company was keen to work with both private and public partners in terms of supplying technical knowhow or training for doctors and nurses alongside NGOs. Given the limitations of Maldivians in the country travelling abroad for health reasons due to income, Shankar said he believed that there were a number of treatment options it could make available for the population.
“We are focusing on both kinds of things [private and public cooperation], we are trying to help even the people who cannot afford treatments as well. We have different options actually, but this depends on what the hospitals and health bodies can manage,” he added. “We are open; whether the government is able to fund a small cancer care centre or through work with a private partner, we are looking for both [opportunities].”
At present, the Maldives’ State Minister for Health, Abdul Bari Abdulla, said that there was no budget in the country specifically for cancer prevention, with any possible funding being supplied under a wider national health act.
“The cancer programme we have is currently led by IGMH, but we don’t have the capacity for treatments or screening,” he said.
The State Health Minister claimed that the main challenge for the nation regarding cancer prevention related to a lack of technical expertise.
“Cancer treatment within the country requires state of the art techniques,” he said.
In considering strategies for trying to combat cancer within the Maldives, Bari said that health was one area that the government was looking into the possibilities of private and public partnerships and the potential benefits that may be available.
So-called ‘medical tourism’ to countries such as India and Singapore is very common in the Maldives among those able to afford it, and is major expense for many families unable to afford it but who do so anyway because of low confidence in local services for surgery and serious ailments.