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Fiji Works with IAEA, IARC and WHO to Develop Road Map for its First Radiotherapy Facility

The imPACT Review mission was conducted at the request of Fiji's Ministry of Health. (Photo: J. Romero/IAEA)

Fiji has taken a key step towards the establishment of the country’s first radiotherapy facility, after a team from the IAEA, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) visited the country to conduct a comprehensive cancer control review. The visit took place at the request of Fiji’s Ministry of Health, and was aimed at tracking progress achieved since an earlier imPACT Review mission undertaken in March 2014.

“The Government of Fiji is committed to exploring opportunities for enhancing health services for the people of Fiji,” said Hon Lynda Tabuya, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and Acting Minister for Health and Medical Services, as she welcomed the imPACT Review team. Minister Tabuya emphasized that universal health coverage is a priority for the Government of Fiji, as is preventing and treating cervical cancer. She added that the imPACT mission was expected to advance Fiji’s National Cancer Control Plan and the finalization of the country’s Radiation Safety Legal Framework.

The imPACT Review team were in Fiji to provide input to the Ministry of Health’s plan to establish a comprehensive cancer centre, focusing on the establishment of the country’s first radiotherapy service, and to support the development of Fiji’s National Cancer Control Plan. The Review team also provided recommendations on strengthening human resources in oncology, and analyzed current financing for cancer control, including potential support and synergies with development partners working in the country.

Fiji faces particular challenges in tackling cancers that affect women. The latest WHO data from 2020 shows there are almost 1,500 new cancer cases each year in the country, with cervical and breast cancer accounting for more than 400 of these cases. In 2020, cancer caused 825 deaths.

“This is the second imPACT Review mission to Fiji, and we commend the Government for their proactive approach to addressing cancer in the country,” said Lisa Stevens, Director of the IAEA’s Division for the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy and leader of the country mission. “Fiji’s willingness to engage in a detailed assessment of their cancer control challenges and existing capacities has contributed greatly to the success of the mission, and we trust that the mission recommendations will help guide the country through the next key steps in setting up its own radiotherapy facility.”

The team noted that two health policies related to cancer had been formulated since the 2014 imPACT Review mission: the Non-Communicable Diseases Strategic Plan 2015–2019 and the National Cancer Control Plan. The team observed that the government, as part of its efforts to address cervical cancer, has prioritized HPV vaccination and screening. Governance and coordination have also been strengthened since 2014, with the establishment of the Fiji National Cancer Coalition, which has expanded the pool of national and international partners around cancer.

“The ultimate goal is to establish high quality safe services across the cancer continuum from disease prevention to curative and palliative care,” said Virginia Tsapaki, Medical Physicist in the Dosimetry and Medical Radiation Physics Section of the IAEA’s Division of Human Health.

Working closely with the Ministry of Health and counterparts from Lautoka Hospital, where a new radiotherapy centre is planned for 2025, the imPACT Review team developed a road map for the planning of the first radiotherapy facility. Radiotherapy is highly important in cancer management, with 50 to 60 per cent of all cancer patients requiring this service.

The team also reviewed the required legislation framework for radiation safety, which is an essential precondition for the planning of the radiotherapy facility, and provided guidance on its finalization. One of Fiji’s proposed projects for the 2024–2025 IAEA technical cooperation cycle will take the review report into consideration. The country foresees support for the implementation of the radiotherapy road map, as well as workforce development, under the  IAEA’s Rays of Hope initiative.

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