The establishment of the LINAC at CRH, will bring the western Jamaica Type A hospital in line with other health-care institutions of its kind, not only in the Caribbean, but in the First World with the care of cancer patients.
“We are progressing as per schedule and we should finish the construction section by the end of June and test and commission the equipment by the end of July. We’re hoping to treat patients by the end of August,” says Executive Director of the National Health Fund (NHF) Everton Anderson.
The NHF, CHASE Fund, the Tourism Enhancement Fund and private interests are funding the LINAC centre in Montego Bay and another at the Kingston Public Hospital at a total cost of about US$15 million. One of the private donors is the Vincent Hosang Family Foundation (VHFF) with support from the Jamaicans Diaspora in New York.
Last Friday, May 6, 2016, representatives of the Hosang Foundation were taken on a tour of the treatment centre by Mr. Anderson and CHASE Fund Executive Director William “Billy” Heaven. “We’re showing them where their investment in Jamaica is paying off and we’re happy to have them here to actually see what is happening on this project,” said Mr. Anderson.
He expressed confidence in the work being done noting, “And with astute management from our project team, Mr Orett Clarke leader, I think we will finish the project without any variation in budgeted cost.”
Representing VHFF, Janice Julian was pleased with what the progress being made.
“We’re quite pleased. Not that we’re monitoring but because we’re involved with the Jamaican Diaspora, the funds that we collected was a dual effort between the foundation and the Diaspora so we felt that we had an obligation to the Diaspora to report to them on the progress of the project and I am quite pleased so far. I know I will be able to take back good news and we all will be happy when this is finally over so that we can come and be a part of the grand opening,” she said.
Ms Julian stressed, however that “the main reason for our interest is to see it start benefitting the Jamaican people.”
Ground was broken for the treatment centre on Friday, November 6, 2015 by former Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson, who described the acquisition of the LINAC for Cornwall Regional as his "Big Ideas Project" to bring first world cancer care to western Jamaica.
When operational the hospital's cancer centre should be treating in excess of 500-600 cancer patients annually, the majority of them being men with prostate cancer, followed closely by women with breast cancer.
The speed and accuracy of the LINAC will enable more people being treated by enhancing prognosis, allowing for cleaner treatment of patients and reduce problems such as incontinence and other morbidities associated with pelvic treatments.
CRH has been treating cancer patients using a single cobalt machine since opening its wards and clinics in 1974. It also used a deep therapy and a superficial machine, but they have since been discontinued.
The LINAC comes with electron capability. Instead of treating with pure X-ray, the radiation can be removed and a patient treated with electron.
Manager, radiation therapy services at CRH, Audley Baxter said, by using pure electron, because of its short range penetrability, it goes a far way in treating things like scars and underlying affected nodes.
"The selectivity of electron beam enhances not just a patient's health but their state of well-being, as its use reduces significantly the likelihood of a recurrent tumour along the scars in the future," says Baxter.
"An even more important feature of the LINAC is the ability to regulate the delivered dose to selected areas of a tumour volume, based on the radiation intensity need, while reducing the impact on adjacent normal tissues," he further explained.
The Linear Accelerator to be installed at CRH is tumour-specific.
Baxter explains that: "A tumour grows with irregular edges and different dimensions and this machine is capable of creating 3-D arranged ports that allows for detailed shaping, conforming with specific shapes of tumour volume targeted."
"When you treat the anterior, the radioactive beam takes a certain shape, also when you treat the laterer it takes a different shape conforming with the tumour, avoiding good tissue being damaged. Consequently, you reduce morbidity by avoiding seminal vesicle and (for men with prostate cancer) likely preserve their sexual potency."
In cases where radiation is needed, the LINAC allows for treatment with intensity modulated radiation therapy, in that it varies the intensity of radiation by treating the patient in an arc movement that allows for an even spread over the area of treatment, thereby avoiding the risk of over concentration in any one location.
The CRH Cancer Treatment Centre will be one of two established by the Government at a cost of just under US$15 million. Major funding is being provided by the National Health Fund, CHASE Fund, and the Tourism Enhancement Fund, however, the CRH centre had its genesis with a fund-raising drive launched by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with the Jamaica Association of Administrative Professionals (JAAP).
CRH will also be getting a CT simulator, a C-arm mobile X-ray unit and a High Dose Radiation machine for brachytherapy, along with treatment planning system and related quality assurance equipment.