The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Northern Marianas Oncology Center last Aug. 24 at the east side of CHCC’s main building.
With the opening of the Oncology Center, cancer patients will now be able to get medical care, to an extent, on-island instead of going off-island.
As a cancer survivor himself, Mayor David M. Apatang, gives CHCC “many” thumbs up for finally making the center possible. Apatang says that now, cancer patients who need services no longer have to make travel arrangements, travelling miles away from home, and that the pain of leaving the comfort of their home and loved ones, and the expenses to be incurred for seeking and receiving in other places will be a “thing of the past.”
“Today, we know cancer does not pick and choose its victim. Because detecting cancer at the early stages gives the victim a much better chance of survival, this center is critical to how we will win the battle against late detection of cancer that affects many of our people,” said Apatang.
Medical oncologist, Dr. Peter Brett, moved to Saipan a little over a year ago to help work with his colleagues, staff, and to also take care of people with cancer. He has been an oncologist for more than 25 years, and says that cancer is one of the biggest tragedies to affect someone.
Brett says that cancer doesn’t only affect someone who has it, but those around them whether it’s their significant other, loved ones, close friends, it affects so many people. He added that when he first got here, some patients were getting “some” cure, but most of it wasn’t given locally and were eventually medically referred to the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland, just for their care.
“It’s hard enough to have cancer, but then they have to travel far away for your care and go away for months at a time, it’s just very difficult. So for the past year or more, our cancer team here, we’ve been treating people locally, I think we’re doing a pretty good job doing it,” said Brett. Additionally, he said that they’ve been doing a lot, however, they never really had the space to do it.
With the support of the government, the hospital, and everyone else involved, they have been able to create this space where they can keep care “locally.” The only thing that CHCC’s oncologist can’t do are complex radiation and complex surgery, but Brett says most cancer care can be kept on island.
Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios had an experience of his father having cancer, which affected him personally, since his father was gone for eight months at a time. With both of his parents off-island, Palacios said that he and his siblings had to fend for themselves.
Palacios believes that with the facility, the community will be in a better place knowing that they won’t have to travel far, and has also applauded everyone who has contributed in order to make the day when the CNMI sees its first oncology center a reality.