June 8, 2021 | healthcare

Medicine running low in Sulaimani cancer hospital


SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Cancer patients struggle as Hiwa Cancer Hospital, located in Sulaimani, deals with medication shortages.

“I had to receive treatment twice, but I didn't receive any treatment for a month because of a lack of supplies,” said Idris Mohammed, 40, a patient diagnosed with cancer last year.

Since 2020, the Ministry of Finance of the Kurdistan Regional Government has been indebted to medicine companies. As a result, the companies have decided to stop delivering medicines until they are paid.

“The company imports the medicine, but doesn't receive government funding, so they don't deliver it,' Mohammed added.

His cancer has reached a critical stage due to a lack of medicine. About 150 other patients like Idris also require urgent medication.

“Due to some issues between them, more than 150 patients are suffering,” explained Hiwa hospital pharmacy director Dr. Khoshi Hamid.

The hospital provides free medicine to its patients. There is, however, a shortage of two specific drugs at the hospital, Pembrolizumab and Pertuzumab, and patients are unable to afford to buy them elsewhere. The prices range from $1,200 to $3,200 despite the poor quality.

“I can assure you that no cancer patient can afford to go to a private hospital in this region,' said Dr. Yad Naqishbandi, the director of Hiwa hospital.

“Perhaps they can visit them once or twice, but they cannot do so continuously. Patients receive treatment that costs 4,000-5,000 dollars every 20 days,' Naqishbandi said.

Alongside medicine shortages, the health workers at the hospital have not been paid for months.

Kurdistan has registered 7,831 cancer cases as of 2019. This number has dropped to 6,293 in 2020. Sulaimani's Hiwa hospital alone registers 10 cases every day.

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