DAVAO CITY – The leading foundation helping children afflicted with cancer sees brighter hope for them through sustained medication and reduction of ‘treatment abandonment’ to zero, following the signing of Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act.
Dr. Mae Dolendo, pediatric oncologist at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) and president of the House of Hope, said the law would address treatment abandonment that results in waste of resources, both for the patient and the government.
Dolendo recalled that in 2004 when the foundation started helping children with cancer, the treatment abandonment was high at 90 percent because there was no sustainable support system.
“Drop out is beyond our control,” she said, adding that among the reasons for stopping treatment is the lack of financial capability.
Most patients from the provinces, she said, would often stop treatment because they simply cannot afford travel expenses and other costs.
Over the years, however, the treatment abandonment rate is down to 20 percent – particularly for pediatric leukemia cases, Dolendo noted.
“We have done a lot of progress. But we want to bring that down further,” Dolendo said during Friday’s Kapihan sa PIA.
With the signing of the law, Dolendo said patients can get free medicines and other services. Dolendo said getting cancer treatment entails huge financial support, especially for high-risk patients.
Dolendo said the foundation will still help in filling the gap in addressing other needs of the patients, such as providing housing while patients are under medication and monitoring, aside from food subsidies.
She said cancer treatment would still need big financial aid, noting that the current Z Benefit Package of Philhealth would not be enough for the full treatment. Under the law, the Cancer Assistance Fund will support the cancer medicine and assistance treatment program.
Dolendo said Davao City could be the model for the implementation of the Cancer Law.
She lauded President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been a top donor of the House of Hope Foundation and the SPMC’s Children with Cancer Institute, for the signing of the law.
The President even recently donated the house he bought several years ago as an extension of a transient center of the House of Hope.
Under the law, children and adults with cancer could expect extensive cancer care services. Medicines are free for early stages of cancer, colorectal cancer, breast, and acute lymphocytic leukemia in children.
The law institutionalizes a “national integrated” program to control cancer. The government, through the Department of Health and the local government units, will provide early and sufficient access to cancer medicines to “ensure the highest possible chance of survival among people with cancer” and strengthen the capabilities of public health care systems and facilities in dealing with cancer.
The DOH is also mandated under the new law to provide subsidies and scholarships for the training of oncology professionals.
Dolendo said the law provides a clear direction and framework for all activities related to cancer care and advocacy. (PNA)