By Nancy Nais
KUCHING, Sept 27: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has agreed to assist Pink & Teal EmpowHer (Persatuan Kesedaran Kanser Wanita)’s request to set up a RM500,000 One-Stop Solution Bus to bring equitable health care to Sarawak’s rural women.
He made the announcement today at ‘A Sunday Morning with CM: Dialogue Session with Young Entrepreneurs in Sarawak’ organised by DayakDaily and Kuching Freelance Journalists Association (Pewarta).
Pink & Teal EmpowHer founder Dr Abigail Jerip had earlier explained to Abang Johari that the One-Stop Solution Bus can traverse the length and breadth of Sarawak and offer screen-and-treat cancer solutions to Sarawakian women, particularly those living deep in the interior.
Dr Abigail, who is also a trainee lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas)
Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) Department said the association has been collaborating with Unimas to do cervical and breast cancer screening in the rural areas of Sarawak, namely Dalat, Mulu, Ulu Padawan, Singai and Lundu.
“Our findings showed that Sarawak General Hospital has reported 120 new cases in the recent year. This means there is one new case every three days.
“Cervical cancer is the top two most common and deadly women’s cancer and the majority of cases in Sarawak are diagnosed at later stages, where survival is less than 40 per cent, despite being 90 per cent preventable. Sarawak boasts the highest cervical cancer rates of 12.1/100,000 while the overall Malaysian rate is at 10.2/100,000,” she pointed out.
As for the cervical cancer screening programme advocated by the University of Malaya Medical Centre (PPUM), she asserted that the methodology does not fit into Sarawak’s local rural setting so many women miss out on this programme.
With an uptake of only 30 per cent, Dr Abigail said the cervical screening programme fails to meet the KPI of adequate coverage and reliable follow up.
“Rather than adopting an outreach programme from Peninsular Malaysia and try to make Sarawak fit into its mould, Unimas O&G and our local volunteer NGO have come up with a penetrative method to screen and treat our rural women. We adapted our approach to suit their environment, meeting them in balai, ruai and remin Dayak.
“We offer a one-stop solution and in the past year we have screened more than 1,000 women which was 10 times more than the KPI of district health clinics. We identified a significant number of them to have pre-cancerous lesions and have been able to prevent cancer from ravaging her, her family and community,” she explained.
However, while they plan for to treat the rural women in three to four weeks, which was half the time of the usual Ministry of Health referral pathway, Pink & Teal EmpowHer have also identified a 50 per cent defaulter rate which concerns them. They discovered this was largely due to their own inability to transport their portable treatment equipment.
“Pink & Teal EmpowHer movement is currently funded largely by ourselves and grants from the Women’s Welfare Ministry, yet, mobility is still restricted due to lack of funds.
“With the One-Stop Solution Bus, portable equipment can also be disassembled and loaded onto 4×4 vehicles, long boats or helicopters to reach further depths of Sarawak,” Dr Abigail added.
Although this area is not his expertise, Abang Johari acknowledged that the question here is about welfare and healthcare, which is important as well.
“If your volunteer doctors and nurses freely gave their time for this cancer awareness programme with positive response from rural community and you all have made the difference, then I don’t mind giving you the RM500,000 assistance,” he assured. — DayakDaily