In photo the new mammography machine. Photo credit @ MHMS
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THE National Referral Hospital yesterday took delivery of a mammography machine from the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority, SIMA. The machine, worth more than SBD1.2 million dollars, is funded by SIMA under its Community Engagement programme and a memorandum of understanding signed in 2022 with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS).

SIMA and MHMS agreed to collaborate with the aim to support the prevention and early diagnosis of breast and cervical cancers. It replaces the first machine gifted to the NRH in 2014.

The mammography machine is an x-ray to the breast to identify early signs of breast cancer. It is the best way to identify the breast cancer the earliest. The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier the treatment with good prognosis or outcome. Having early and regular and early screening helps lower the risks of women dying from breast cancer. This prevention message was highlighted by Dr Andrew Soma, Head of Cancer unit and the Permanent Secretary Mrs Pauline McNeil during the handover ceremony.

Once operational, it is expected to save the lives of women and girls in Solomon Islands, through early detection.

Delivering the key note address at the handover ceremony, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services Pauline McNeil thanked Solomon Islands Maritime Authority, and spoke highly of the partnership with SIMA.

“I would like to acknowledge and highlight the well-coordinated and crafted efforts between SIMA, our technical clinicians and my Ministry from sourcing and providing specifications through to the procurement of this specialised equipment.

L-R- SIMA Board Deputy Chair John Hugo Bugoro, SIMA Director Thierry Nervale, PS Pauline McNeil and NRH CEO DR George Malefoasi. Photo credit @ MHMS

“Today’s handover is a milestone event,and a manifestation of the close collaboration between SIMA and MHMS, 12 months after we signed an MOU and agreed on the purchase of the machine. This partnership is commendable and we look forward to continue working with SIMA under the current MOU in the future to provide better and improved health care for Solomon Islanders,” said PS McNeil.

The Permanent Secretary also echoed concerns over statistics

“Particularly concerning is the increase of the number of patients who received chemotherapy over the last four years since 2019. The NRH Oncology Unit reports show that in 2019, 39 new cases were recorded and they underwent a total of 321 chemotherapy sessions.

“Last year in 2022, the new cases for chemotherapy doubled to 99 which was a 40% increase. The total cumulative cases increased from 321 in 2019 to 743 cases in 2022.  The increase indicates the rise in new cases and increasing demand for treatment.

“The statistics are overwhelming concerning and we call on women and girls to come forward because early screening is vital for spotting any signs of breast cancer in its earliest, and most manageable stages. When breast cancer is detected early, the survival rates are higher, treatment options are less aggressive and more effective, leading to better health outcomes,” said PS McNeil.

The Permanent Secretary calls on women and girls in Honiara, and those in the Provinces to come forward for early screening and access the service, now that we have a mammogram in place.

Speaking at the event, SIMA Director Thierry Nervale says as a newly established public institution SIMA takes seriously its moral obligation to support the community.

“On behalf of the Board of SIMA and SIMA staff, I am proud to offer to NRH a mammography machine that will help the early detention of breast cancers. We are all affected by cancer personally, in our families and in our communities. We must do the best we can to combat cancers and raise awareness on breast cancer so that women come forward for examination.”

In presentation from Dr Andrew Soma, whilst there are curative medication available, increasing challenge is faced at the NRH with palliative care for cancer patients. A challenge whereby the CEO NRH Dr George Malefoasi noted to be considered in the hospitals strategic vision.

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