Island-based radiation therapy has ‘dramatically’ increased access to treatment
The introduction of on-island radiation therapy has made treatment more accessible and saved the public more than $35 million over the past five years, according to the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre.
A BCHC spokeswoman said that between 80 and 100 residents travelled overseas for radiation treatment before the opening of the charity’s Radiation Therapy Unit in 2017.
“The unit now treats twice that many patients each year,” the spokeswoman said.
“For patients with HIP, FutureCare or no insurance at all, access to treatment has increased even more dramatically.
“The unit has also provided access to many palliative care patients who were unable to receive overseas treatment.”
The BCHC added that without the need to cover travel and hotel expenses, more than $35 million had been saved over the past five years as patients had not needed to seek treatment overseas.
Chris Fosker, medical director and radiation oncologist at the centre, said: "Over the past five years, we have witnessed the benefits of having a local Radiation Therapy Unit, which extend far beyond the clinical benefits of the treatments.
“First, there is the accessibility of treatment. Second, there is the reduction in cost to patients by being treated locally.
“Third, there is the priceless benefit of time, which patients can spend living their daily lives while receiving treatment in Bermuda. Finally, there is the cost savings for the local healthcare system as a whole.”
Dr Fosker added: “The burden of cancer care is growing globally, and we are no different here in Bermuda, which is why access to care is vital.”
The charity also highlighted that it has been able to subsidise $7.9 million in treatment costs for uninsured and underinsured patients during the period.
Dr Fosker said: “This helps patients to reduce the financial burden of treatments.
“There is no co-pay, which allows patients to focus on their wellness instead of worrying about how to pay.”
He added that while radiation therapy treatment appointments typically last less than 30 minutes, they take place over a matter of weeks, which meant that those who receive treatment overseas have to remain overseas throughout the treatment period.
Dr Fosker said: “Instead of waiting around in a strange hotel room, our patients are at home, going to work, seeing their children, getting the support of their loved ones.
“It’s impossible to quantify the significance of that difference to each of our patients.”
Lynn Woolridge, CEO of the centre, said the success of the radiation therapy unit would not be possible without collaboration with other bodies locally and internationally.
“Our Radiation Therapy Unit benefits greatly from the clinical affiliation with Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Centre,” she said.
“Our agreement with the Bermuda Hospitals Board enables us to use the CT scanner at KEMH to acquire the simulations we need to proceed with treatment.
“We also have a working relationship with the team at PALS to support cancer patients who require additional care at home, both during and after treatment.”