Cyprus Mail

Paphos cancer unit stays open but treatment patchy

Paphos hospital

REPORTS that the oncology unit at Paphos general hospital had been closed due to lack of staff have been quashed by hospital director who told the Sunday Mail the closure had only been temporary.

“It was never ‘closed’ as such and the cancer unit at Paphos general hospital will remain open for the foreseeable future, as the current doctor has renewed her contract,” said Spyros Georgiou.

He explained that the unit was looked after by one doctor and that her six-month contract had run its course. She took a week’s leave whist waiting to hear if it would be renewed by the ministry of health.

Georgiou said that a number of panicked patients had contacted the hospital, as had local cancer charities, after rumours of the unit’s closure were rife.

“The current doctor who has been with us since March, renewed her contract with us on Thursday, and she will continue to operate a clinic at the hospital four days a week,” he said, looking to allay patients’ fears.

The doctor offers a daily clinic on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, she works at Limassol general hospital.

Georgiou said this was a huge improvement, as prior to March, the hospital only had a visiting doctor, travelling from Limassol, once a week.

At the end of last year, the government was criticised by the House human rights committee for failing to provide a comprehensive cancer care system particularly for cancer patients in Limassol and Paphos.

They said the government’s plans to create a radiology centre in Limassol by 2018 was not soon enough. At present, cancer patients from Limassol and Paphos often have to travel to Nicosia for specialised treatment such as chemotherapy.

Paphos hospital director Spyros Georgiou
Paphos hospital director Spyros Georgiou

In a positive move, Europa Donna Cyprus recently announced that a much anticipated breast cancer centre would be inaugurated at the Nicosia general hospital on October 17.

Europa Donna had launched a campaign in 2009, urging the health ministry to take the necessary steps to create a specialised breast centre in Cyprus, according to the European parliament resolution on breast cancer. The online petition was signed by more than 21,000 people.

Homecare nurse Rachael Grainger-Christou, provides specialist care for cancer patients in Paphos (similar to Macmillan Nurses in the UK) through her association with the Cyprus Association of Cancer Patients and Friends (PASYKAF). The island-wide organisation was formed in 1986 by a small group of cancer patients, families and friends and now has branches in Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos.

She said that a general lack of communication about what was going on at the Paphos unit had led to patients’ distress.

“People who had regular appointments were not informed of the situation and turned up at the hospital. Some had to collect their files and travel to Limassol general hospital and others were able to wait and see the outcome,” she said.

She added that PASYKAF had also not initially been informed that an oncologist had been employed at Paphos general hospital or that more recently, she wouldn’t be present for some days.

Grainger-Christou is a full time home care nurse and along with another full time member of staff and two further part timers, the team of four look after in excess of 200 patients in the Paphos region.

Homecare nurses see patients from initial cancer diagnosis right through their illness and also provide help and support for the families.

The PASYKAF day centre offers self-help group therapy, volunteer training, music and stress therapy, creative therapy support groups for patients and their children, reflexology, aromatherapy, Bowen technique and Reiki. There is also a confidential telephone helpline, which is staffed by trained volunteers.

“It was a general lack of communication and now I believe we will all be working more closely together.”

The homecare nurse said that many people living in Paphos travel to Limassol and Nicosia general hospitals for treatment as well as the Bank of Cyprus oncology centre in Nicosia.

“Previously, the once-a-week oncology clinic in Paphos wasn’t enough and sometimes patients had to wait for up to five or six hours. This is a much better arrangement.”

There are no facilities at Paphos general hospital to administer chemotherapy treatment.

“People can receive blood transfusions, rehydration and bone therapy now, but a way forward would be to develop such a unit, even if it’s a small one,” she said.

Georgiou said that he held a meeting on Wednesday with representatives of PASYKAF and the oncology doctor and discussed practical problems she is facing and how she can be helped in her work.

“We will all come together to help in the future,” he said.

Georgiou also said that he will be inviting PASYKAF to attend another meeting with him next week, to see how the two entities can better cooperate in the future.

The cancer support information and helpline is available from 9am – 1pm Monday to Friday. Telephone 97760989. PASYKAF and Paphos cancer patients support group – 26222929

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