Health Minister says cancer patients will be sent overseas for continued treatment, but Centre will not be allowed to close

The Government is promising that the Cancer Centre Eastern Caribbean Ltd. – which is expected to shut its doors at the end of April, according to its owner – will not be closed.

Reports say that Dr. Conville S. Browne, who reportedly owns 75 to 80 percent of the shares in the centre, wrote to Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph, in March, regarding its imminent closure.

In the letter, Dr. Browne reportedly says he has been supporting the centre these past years; however, it has become increasingly difficult to continue clinical operations due to its finances.

Therefore, he reportedly writes, treatment for cancer patients will end on April 30, and other arrangements will have to be made for them.  Accordingly, no new patients are being accepted for treatment, especially if their care will have to run past the end of that month.

The majority shareholder reportedly has not been successful in getting other partners to come on board, nor in finding a new owner who will keep the facility open.

Minister Joseph, who addressed the weeks-long rumours of a shut-down in the Lower House, on April 17, says plans are in the pipeline to sell the facility for US$15 million.  However, if it has not been sold by April 30, the centre will likely go into liquidation.

The closure of the centre has stirred criticism of the Browne Administration, with cancer patients expressing insecurity about their future care.

Their anxiety is well founded, since Sir Molwyn says that a follow-up letter from Henry Hazel, chief operations officer at the centre, advises that patients undergoing radiation therapy should make alternative arrangements to continue treatment.

In this regard, Sir Molwyn claims that arrangements will be made to have these persons flown overseas for treatment. 

In what several residents tell REAL News was a “shocking” disclosure, Joseph says the first conversation anticipating the close-down of the centre took place over a year ago.  

Yet, he says that unnecessary alarm has been injected into the community about its closure – even by opposition parliamentarians.    

Joseph says that some of the statements suggesting that the Government has abandoned cancer patients are false and malicious.  And he says there is no evidence that the Administration has not continued to use its financial resources to send such patients overseas for care.

At present, he adds, six approved patients are expected to continue their treatment, which will be administered in The Bahamas.  Another two are expected to be sent abroad for care: One is awaiting a passport and the other is scheduled to travel to Suriname, he says.

Sir Molwyn claims the Government has already expended $9 million in support of the Cancer Centre to ensure that every Antiguan and Barbudan can receive treatment, and he is certain the centre will not be allowed to close.