Participants agreed that early diagnosis (screening) and effective treatment of cancer, public knowledge and motivation to take care of health, and a healthy lifestyle are key challenges in reducing and treating cancer, which requires adequate public funding.
A total of 82,000 patients with malignancies have been registered in Latvia, and an average of 11,500 first-time patients with such a diagnosis are registered each year. In 2019, the population of Latvia decreased by 12,293 inhabitants. Of these, more than 5,900 died of cancer.
Dr. Jānis Eglītis, President of the Latvian Association of Oncologists, defined the main problems to be solved. First of all, there is no accredited Cancer Center in Latvia. Secondly, there is no single register of oncology patients, which would allow more efficient use of state budget funds. Third, current cancer screening programs do not meet the quality criteria recommended by the EU. In addition, funding for the treatment of cancer patients and the range of medicines available are critically low, and there is a shortage of specialists in oncology.
The participants of the discussion acknowledged that the situation is dramatic and requires coordinated cooperation of all parties involved – government and responsible institutions, legislator, doctors and patients’ organizations – with appropriate funding and plan for efficient and purposeful use of these funds.
Speaking about the impact of oncology on the state budget and economy, the head of the Budget and Finance (Tax) Committee of the Saeima Mārtiņš Bondars emphasized that cancer patients should be returned to the labor market as soon as possible. “It simply came to our notice then. Not just to think about how to treat patients, but to ask how to get these people back to a socially and economically active life faster. That is, to look at it not as a state budget expenditure, but as an investment in Latvia’s human capital. “
€ 10 million is needed to ensure that all three cancer screening programs (breast, cervical and intestinal) work according to EU guidelines. EUR 30 million is needed to fund the latest generation of biomarkers, chemotherapy and targeted therapies. Greater involvement of GPs in the early diagnosis and follow-up of cancer, as well as the implementation of public information and education campaigns, is essential.
As mentioned by Evita Zālīte-Grosa, deputy head of the Saeima support group for oncology patients, the New Conservative Party met with the Minister of Health Ilze Ņķelis on October 9 and discussed oncology problems in Latvia. For its part, the JPP made suggestions on the sources of funding for oncology: “It is ideologically correct that products that contribute to oncology are subject to a higher tax burden that targets cancer treatment. These are tobacco products, unhealthy foods and alcohol. ” The opinion of Evita Zālīte-Grosa was also supported by Dr. Jānis Eglītis and the Chairman of the Latvian Association of Oncologists and Chemists Dr. Aija Geriņa-Bērziņa.
LOA and LOĶA have already addressed the Saeima factions, the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Finance and Health with a request to provide the necessary funding in the 2021 state budget.