Dr. Terrie Flatt, LeAnn Fickes, and Joe Dixon from World Child Cancer’s USA and UK offices kicked off Childhood Cancer Awareness month by traveling to Mexico meet with two new hospitals.
The first of these hospitals was based in a small city called Pachuca several hours from Mexico City – Hospital del Nino DIF. On arrival the team was greeted by doctors and nurses, the director of the hospital, and a representative from the Governor’s wife. They presented a short presentation on childhood cancer in the region and a video of the background of the hospital – In 2014 the hospital treated 73 cancer patients.
A tour of the hospital, paediatric oncology ward (including a new ward to open Sept. 16th), and a hostel for families and children was conducted. Ward refurbishments and equipment have been provided by a grant from the federal government and the first line of chemotherapy is supported by health insurance for low-income Mexicans. However, this insurance does not cover relapses or supportive medications like antibiotics, which the hospital is left to find. Additionally, approximately 40% of patients are indigenous do not speak Spanish, which is a challenge for medication compliance and parent education.
Hospital de la Niñez Oaxaqueña, the second hospital, was located in Oaxaca, a five hour car journey from Pachuca. The team arrived to a reception and dinner hosted by the Secretary of Health, Hector Gonzalez Hernandez, Director, Dr. Isabel Dinorath Diaz Rojas, and the pediatric oncology team. The hospital sees approximately 100 new cases of childhood cancer per year and many children are diagnosed late, resulting in a low survival rate. The ward faces a number of challenges including late diagnosis due to distance traveled and families’ reliance on traditional medicine; language barrier: over 50% of families do not speak Spanish and they do not have translators; and lack of equipment: Like Pachuca, medical insurance only covers the first line of chemo, but the hospital has to absorb many other costs such as antibiotics and supportive medications.
The visiting team was fortunate to have a meeting with the Governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cué Monteagudo and the Secretary of Health, Hector Gonzalez Hernandez. During the visit, the paediatric oncology team shared their challenges and asked for support from the state government. The meeting was a success and a wonderful way to start building relationships with the government.