Cancer patients have to wait for a new “anti-cancer plan”, after Alexandru Rafila, the Minister of Health, announced that he wants to make a new program, even though we already have such a plan that was promulgated by President Klaus Iohannis and which was supposed to enter into force on July 1. The plan provided for: the establishment of a National Cancer Registry, but also much faster patient access to treatment, Cezar Irimia, president of the Federation of Associations of Cancer Patients in Romania, explained to Playtech.ro. According to the data, our country is in the last place in terms of patient waiting time to have access to state-of-the-art medicines
The anti-cancer plan, changed by Minister Rafila
Cancer is the second cause of mortality in the EU, after circulatory diseases, representing 26% of all deaths, and according to Romania data it has 48% more deaths in oncology than the European average and over 20,000 avoidable deaths per year from this pathology.
Moreover, in terms of the cancer death rate, the difference between some countries is almost double.
“The grievances are clear. This cancer plan gave us an extra chance at life, it had integrated us into Europe in the fight against cancer, and what the minister did takes us out of the European Union and inequalities will increase and we will be discriminated against the other patients of Europe.
“This plan would have radically improved the situation: not only on the treatment of patients and their genetic and molecular investigations, the screening plan would also have been put into practice, which we do not have now, even if we boast of genito-mammary, two col plans uterus and breast, they are not real, they are lies because we do not have a registry to monitor these screenings.
The plan improved many things from national information and education plans to palliation. We will defend these things because we have been asking for them for 22 years with documents.
Now that the plan has been unanimously approved in the Romanian Parliament, promulgated by the President of Romania, it seems that Mr. Rafila is above the law, seriously violating the country’s Constitution”, explained Cezar Irimia, president of the Federation of Associations of Cancer Patients in Romania, for Playtech.ro.
- Cezar Irimia, president of the Federation of Associations of Cancer Patients in Romania, has been the voice of cancer patients for many years. He was a two-time cancer survivor, each time lucky enough to catch it in its early stages. He has won hundreds of lawsuits against the Ministry of Health.
The plan was to be applied from July 1
The European plan to combat cancer is an essential pillar of the European Health Union, announced by President von der Leyen in 2020. Such a plan was also voted by the Romanian Parliament and promulgated by Klaus Iohannis last year.
“We are therefore launching a national plan that develops a vision both for the present and for future generations, and which is based on an integrated, ambitious and connected approach to European efforts to reduce cancer.
Certainly, we are all aware that this approach will not overnight solve all the problems facing the cancer patient or the field of oncology. But what I appreciated when I analyzed this Plan is that it sets realistic and measurable objectives and that it defines a standardized route for the patient”, Klaus Iohannis said last year during the Plan’s launch event.
The anti-cancer plan was supposed to come into force on July 1, but Alexandru Rafila, the Minister of Health, announced that he is launching a different plan, compared to the existing one.
“We managed to finalize the new form of the National Plan to Combat Cancer. Today, it will be public on the website of the Ministry of Health. She is open to suggestions. I worked only with professionals, transparently. We want there to be a mobilization on the part of the political class, so that this plan becomes a reality.
As far as the rules are concerned, there are many things that have already been done in these five months since the law entered into force”, said Alexandru Rafila this week at the event organized by the Fundeni Clinical Institute on the occasion of the European Week to fight against cancer.
Rafila wants a new anti-cancer plan, patients threaten protests
Caesar Irimia, the president of the Federation of Associations of Cancer Patients in Romania, said that there is a need to implement such a plan as quickly as possible and said that if this does not happen, cancer patients will take to the streets.
“For us there is no other way, we have a legislated plan, so we have a law to respect. On July 1, if we do not have the rules of this plan, we will sue the Ministry of Health, even if Mr. Rafila will no longer be in charge of the ministry. After this date we will also protest in the street, we respect the law, we are waiting for the 180 legal days to be fulfilled, after which we will act”, Cezar Irimia also told Playtech.ro
The anti-cancer plan that was supposed to come into force on July 1 would have regulated the situation of oncology patients: it would have monitored the money invested in oncology, the oncology budget would have been built according to statistics and not according to the ear as it is done now.
In Romania, the patient also struggles with the disease, but also with the bureaucracy
In Romania, there is a National Cancer Registry since 2007, but it has never worked, and such a registry would help to better coordinate and manage the situation. The only statistics regarding oncological patients come from the data settled by the House of Health, and this does not even allow for a clear ranking regarding the prevalent and dominant types of cancer in Romania.
The lack of application of an anti-cancer plan in Romania deprives Romanian patients of a number of benefits, such as access to state-of-the-art drugs.
- Out of 152 innovative medicines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) between 2016 and 2019, only 39 medicines (1 out of 4) were included in the list of compensated and free ones in Romania until January 1, 2021.
- The rate of availability of state-of-the-art drugs for Romanian patients, in the compensation system, is only 26%, while 74% of the drugs are not available either in the compensated system or in the private one
The differences between us and other European states in the treatment of oncological patients is huge.
“The gap between us and the European Union is about 5-6 years, and so is the gap in life expectancy, between life expectancy in Romania and the European average: also 5-6 years. A first cause is insufficient access to medication and investigation.
Access to genetic and molecular investigations is needed to practice personalized medicine with a much higher chance of success in surviving or even curing patients. If we continue like this we will place ourselves in the same shameful first place in terms of mortality and last place in funding.
We will not leave these slips of the minister to chance, we will not allow him to defy the law. If they had come with amendments, I had nothing against it, but for now the law must be respected.
The minister is playing with patients’ lives, he continues to put his signature on patients’ death certificates, we don’t want this anymore, we are fed up. In Romania, the patient fights more with the system, than with the disease itself. We want equal opportunities with other European citizens”, the president of the Federation of Cancer Patient Associations from Romania also pointed out.
In Romania, it is often very difficult for suspected cancer patients to see an oncologist. The patient’s journey from receiving a biopsy to talking with a specialist can take months.
Thus, in the plan already promulgated by the head of state, the prioritization of the oncological patient was included. That is, he would not have had to wait a very long time for consultations. There is also a need for psychological counseling for both the patient and the family, as well as a special food diet for the patients.
“This disease is not just the problem of the patient or their family. It is the problem of the whole society and we should all take a stand. Our patients died in cars, at the Oncological Institute the poor slept in cars behind the Institute to have their radiotherapy. Radiotherapy consists of five minutes of irradiation, after which you are free. What is the man to do? To come from Vaslui ten times, to drive? The man was sleeping in the car, because he could not afford to pay for the hotel.
We do not benefit from anything for the time being because all the laws issued so far for cancer patients have no rules, it follows that the relative should benefit from 45 days of medical leave or the one who takes care of the cancer patient should have 45 days of leave per year , free counseling for settled patients and relatives. There are many things that would have given us an advantage”, said Cezar Irimia.
France: a model in fighting and treating cancer
French authorities launched a 10-year strategy in 2021 to improve cancer screening, treatment and prevention. France is among the countries with the highest density of centers providing megavolt (MV) therapy, with 7.5 centers per million inhabitants (compared to an EU average of 6.8).
“The minister claims that the plan is not good, that it is incomplete, nothing is perfect. France is at the fifth national cancer plan, the dynamics in health imply the modification of the plan maybe even annually, not only every two years or four years. France is at the fifth cancer plan and is considered to be the best cancer plan in the European Union.
Rescue comes, takes the patient from home, takes him to chemotherapy, brings him home. He has one month of leave per year in the resorts indicated by the Ministry of Health. They are genetically and molecularly tested from the start, right from suspicion, they receive personalized treatments, exactly what our plan ensures, but the minister does not want us to live, he wants us to disappear as much as possible”, Cezar Irimia also conveyed regarding to postpone the implementation of the anti-cancer plan.
In 2021, the number of deaths from tumors reached 46,779, and the most frequent mortality for this class of diseases was recorded for lung cancer, breast cancer, malignant tumor of the pancreas and malignant tumor of the stomach.