Minister of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said that as Sri Lanka transit from a low income country to a middle income country non communicable diseases have reared their ugly head and this is not only limited to Sri Lanka but common to the entire SAARC region.
Addressing the 12th SAARC Federation of Oncologists International Cancer Conference and the Annual Academic Session of the Sri Lanka College of Oncologists 2017 held recently Dr. Senarathne also said that hence it is no coincidence that combatting NCDs was one of the key focuses in this year's SAARC Health Minister's meeting which Sri Lanka hosted.
Minister further said that he has placed much emphasis in addressing the issue of NCDs in general, and cancer care in particular and pointed out that annually around 20,000 new cancer patients are detected in Sri Lanka: most common in males being oral, lung and esophageal cancer while in females it is breast, cervical and ovarian cancer. In males, smoking is the primary cause of oral and lung cancer. This is why we have gone on a strong anti-smoking drive enforcing 80% pictorial warning on cigarette packs, enhanced tax on tobacco, banning loose stick sales, banning sale within 500meters of schools etc.
We have to be proud that in spite of budgetary constrains our health care system has continued to provide free medical care for all cancer patients including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiotherapy, palliative care and supportive care. We are now in the process of further strengthening the relevant schemes by allocating resources not only to improve infrastructure but also to improve human resources and research facilities at all levels including those at Apeksha Hospital, Maharagama the main center of excellence in oncology and onco-surgery, all teaching hospitals, Provincial General Hospitals and some base hospitals. I am pleased to learn that we have over 50 consultant oncologists in the country, but I believe we should have double this number to address the growing country's needs in oncological care.
Ministry of Health has also taken a number of innovative steps in ensuring affordable drug availability. Removal of the upper limit of chemotherapy agents provided free of charge and improvement of radiotherapy facilities country wide are two key initiatives in this regard. I have always believed home grown research is essential to improve country's health sector and has strived to create an environment, which promotes such research. As such it is heartening to note that the organizers have set aside considerable portion of time at this conference to Presents some of these research activities. Sri Lanka always believed close cooperation with our neighbouring countries is essential in achieving our aim of becoming a healthier nation. In this regard I wish to congratulate the SLCO in organizing this event which I am sure would enhance the bonds between the regional oncology professionals, which I am sure would translate into better service for cancer patients in the entire SAARC region.
I wish the 12th SAARC Federation of Oncologists International Cancer Conference and the Annual Academic Session of the Sri Lanka College of Oncologists 2017 all the success and our foreign friends a pleasant, memorable stay in Sri Lanka.
According to the today’s weather forecast issued by the department of the Meteorology Showery weather condition is expected and it will enhance to some extent during next few days (Particularly afternoon thundershowers).