Interview: Dow R Wilson
What is being done in Algeria to curb the prevalence of cancer and address treatment needs?
DOW R WILSON: Cancer has become one of the top health care concerns in Africa. In Algeria, there are 45,000– 50,000 new cancer cases diagnosed per year. The country has shown a strong commitment to fighting the disease through its comprehensive 2015-19 cancer plan, and an ambition to address the lack of radiotherapy units, training and maintenance. The country has also established a policy to provide free cancer care for its citizens in all public hospitals belonging to the Ministry of Health.
We are impressed with Algeria’s plan to build 13 new cancer treatment centres that will include surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy services across the country. Varian Medical Systems is partnering with the Ministry of Health on half of those centres by providing advanced radiotherapy solutions, training and maintenance.
As part of our commitment to the Ministry of Health, we established Varian Medical Systems Algeria in March 2015 as a joint venture with local partner Cialfarm, which belongs to ETRHB Haddad Group. This partnership will focus on enhancing access to care and patient outcomes; providing clinical customers with a high level of service; and creating educational programmes to train clinicians on the correct use of future technology to deliver advanced radiotherapy care.
How can Algeria expand its availability of care and increase its capacity of specialist care?
WILSON: Expanding the availability of cancer care begins with the development of a comprehensive cancer plan. Algeria has made a strong first step with its cancer plan in addition to the positive actions that have already taken place such as, beginning in 2013, actively addressing the lack of radiotherapy units and more than tripling the capacity from six medical linear accelerators to 20. Algeria intends to add an additional 36 medical linear accelerators. But just adding more radiotherapy equipment alone will not help solve the need for greater access to care. In addition to the equipment, there is a need to expand the pool of qualified technicians and clinicians to help plan and deliver treatments. We are seeking to bridge the gap between skill levels and knowledge in well-equipped countries and those looking to expand access by providing a broad range of educational services.
What is being done to increase local research and development efforts?
WILSON: With its Healthcare 2020 initiative, Algeria is demonstrating its commitment to provide stateof-the-art cancer tools and technology in a research centre in Sidi Abdellah where physicians can conduct research and development in the areas of cancer treatment and prevention. This is an important step forward in the expansion of local research and development in Algeria.
How can Algeria ensure that residents in more remote areas of the country will have better access to oncology treatment in the future?
WILSON: The Lancet Oncology Commission released a report at the end of 2015 that found that up to 60% of all cancer patients worldwide will need radiotherapy at some point in their treatment plan, but a lack of investment in the needed radiotherapy services has severely limited the access to radiotherapy treatments worldwide.
With its cancer plan, Algeria is already actively addressing this issue by building new hospitals and treatment centres across the entire country in order to help treat a greater number of patients. For instance, there are new treatment centres currently being built as far south as Adrar and Laghouat.
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