Members of the House health committee on Thursday welcomed planned updates to the national cancer strategy that will include a national cancer institute and urged the state to step up support for cancer patients.

Updates for the 2019 national cancer strategy were presented to MPs by president of the national cancer institute Pavlos Drakos. Procedures have been set in motion for its implementation, MPs heard.

Also discussed was the need to merge existing oncology departments.

In statements, Disy MP Charalambos Pazaros noted that in 2019, the health ministry had updated the national strategy on the basis on EU guidelines and the most recent developments with the aim of providing high quality oncology treatment to cancer patients and offering the best help from early prevention to treatment and palliative care.

There was agreement on the need and usefulness of an independent cancer institute and a comprehensive cancer centre for Cyprus. There was backing to for efforts to bring existing oncology departments of the Nicosia and Limassol hospitals and the Bank of Cyprus’ Oncology Centre under a single umbrella so as to ensure the best use of available services.

“Procedures have been set in motion and the implementation of the national strategy, with some small necessary updates, is underway,” he said.

Akel’s Marina Nicolaou said the party supported implementation of a national strategy on cancer, noting that it is incomprehensible as demonstrated by testimony heard in the committee on Thursday, that the welfare state is replaced by the work of volunteer organisations.

She said Akel called on the government to support hospitals and oncology centres, as cancer patients and all citizens should be offered heath care. Nicolaou said Akel would wait for the details from the update of the national strategy to state its position.

Diko’s Chrysanthos Savvides welcomed the updating of the national strategy as presented by Drakos, noting that this strategy would have to address a number of challenges concerning diagnosis, the daily lives of patients as well as accessibility to innovative treatments and palliative care.

The strategy includes provisions for the establishment of an independent national cancer institute that will be charged with evaluating and organizing oncology services, the creation of a comprehensive Cyprus cancer centre that will cover the whole spectrum of dealing with cancer patients as well as bringing together the existing oncology departments so that they operate under a single administrative structure, he added.

Edek MP Andreas Apostolou said that timelines must be set for the updating and implementation of the national strategy and the creation of the national cancer institute as well as for the bringing together of the oncology services in line with the new situation as a result of Gesy.

Timelines must also be set for the immediate tabling of the bill on palliative care and the creation of day care centres for cancer patients in all the districts, he concluded.