MCO extension will affect cancer patients at govt hospitals, says think tank

PETALING JAYA: A think tank warned today that cancer patients, especially those seeking treatment at public hospitals, would be the most affected by the latest extension of the movement control order (MCO).

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said the reorganisation of public and private healthcare systems as well as the two earlier extensions of MCO had already had a negative impact on cancer patients.

“The condition of such patients may deteriorate as a result of delayed treatment and care due to the prolonged MCO or infection from Covid-19,” its CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said.

“We are already seeing the indirect effects of the Covid-19 crisis on cancer care. With continued uncertainty surrounding the end of the partial lockdown which is now into its second month, many patients are facing trouble with referrals and rescheduling of their treatments and surgeries.”

In a statement, he said anecdotal evidence indicated that while cancer patients undergoing treatment at public hospitals had been redirected to other healthcare facilities, it was not easy to continue disrupted treatments.

He said some patients had been unable to get confirmation on whether and when their treatments would be available at the new locations.

“Others, redirected to private hospitals, have stated that they couldn’t undergo surgeries due to financial constraints.

“The government guidelines also now require all surgical patients to be tested for Covid-19, which has increased the cost of the procedures.”

Even after the MCO ends, he said, such problems would likely continue as new surgical patients could be rejected due to a backlog of cases.

He urged Putrajaya to reassure patients and to act to ensure that their quality of treatment is not compromised as an unintended consequence of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The findings of the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report 2012–2016 released back in January painted a grim reality – many Malaysians were being diagnosed and coming for treatment late,” he said, adding that late diagnosis of cancer often results in poorer survival rates.

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