Doctors who fail to report cancer diagnoses to the national registry could face fines under new legislation.
A draft Cancer Registry Law released for public consultation this week makes it mandatory for health professionals to report cancers and brain tumors to the registry.
Health officials hope the legislation will lead to more complete data which could be used to better deploy resources in the Cayman Islands to help fight the disease.
Currently around 250 people are on the register, with the onus on patients to voluntarily report.
Jennifer Ahearn, chief officer in the Ministry of Health, said the numbers are not a good snapshot of the prevalence of the disease in the Cayman Islands.
The new legislation, which Premier Alden McLaughlin anticipates will go to the Legislative Assembly before the summer, shifts the responsibility to doctors to report to the registrar.
Those who fail to do so could face fines of up to $1,000. The law also mandates that the register is kept confidential and exempt from Freedom of Information requests.
Anyone who discloses information on the register could be fined up to $10,000.
“I understand that confidentiality is a major issue for some. I want to assure the public that the data collected is kept strictly confidential. Under no circumstances will the information ever be shared with outside parties,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
He said the data would help establish whether Cayman has higher rates of particular types of cancer and if there are contributory environmental factors.
The law also calls for a Cancer Registry Board to be established, including representatives from the Health Services Authority and the Cancer Society, a private sector medical representative and a member of the public from outside the sector.
The board will oversee the operations of the registry and make any recommendations to the minister of health on local trends about cancer and brain tumors.
Roy McTaggart, counselor in the health ministry, said, “I believe this legislation, when we take it to the Legislative Assembly, will give the opportunity to at last receive a true snapshot of the extent and the incidence of all types of cancers and brain tumors in the Cayman Islands.” He said it would give solid information that could direct how government deploys its resources.
Ms. Ahearn said the 30-day public consultation period on the bill would be over and above the usual 21-day notice mandated for bills coming before the assembly.
Dr. Sook Yin, medical director of the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, said the registry has been seven years in the making. She said wider reporting to the registry is needed to make it more effective, and pointed out that cancer diagnoses are already routinely reported to insurance companies.
Mr. McLaughlin added that he is hopeful the law will be before the assembly, without too many changes, by June.
“While there are still some notable holdouts, it seems that most people are satisfied that this is important, and whatever concerns they have about confidentiality need to be put to one side in the broader interests of the community,” he said.
The Cancer Registry Bill is online at www.ministryofhealth.gov.ky. Comments can be submitted using the comment form or sent to the Ministry of Health at h&[email protected]