I visited Cameroon May 17th to 31st. The pattern of my visiting has now fallen into biannual trips, May and December with our clinical Director, Prof Peter Hesseling, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric Oncology at Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, S. Africa. For the first 3 days of this visit we were accompanied by Prof Mariana Kruger. Her particular interest is in the establishment of a retinoblastoma treatment programme at Mbingo Baptist Hospital. Again I carried drugs for the Burkitt’s programme and a smaller quantity of drugs to treat retinoblastoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma under new protocols which have yet to be ratified by the Institutional Review Board of the Baptist hospitals. I passed through customs at Douala without hindrance.
Our first stop in the N.W. region was at Baptist HQ in Bamenda where Prof Hesseling and I met with Walter Grob, finance comptroller of the CBC. We requested printouts of our separate accounts. I could see no glaring anomalies in the 3 BTMAT accounts. The problems identified in December 2010 have been rectified – in particular the wrongly charged import duties have been refunded to us and the money that was sitting in a safe at Banso has been credited to the BBH account. Prof Hesseling identified several small charges to his accounts that should have been paid by BTMAT: I authorised transfer of these charges to BTMAT accounts and at the same time asked Prof H. to pay for F75 (milk feeds – part of the nutrition programme) in future. This had been incorrectly charged to our accounts at least at Mutengene.
All 3 of our accounts are still in the red but less so than they were. There are no complaints from our Baptist friends who are most grateful for the help that we give. Our American and Canadian colleagues are profoundly impressed by the infrastructure that Peter has established at all 3 hospitals and the results of our Burkitt’s treatment programme “internationally acknowledged as the best in small hospitals with limited resources” in Africa are seen as a great credit to the CBC Heath Board and hospitals.
Dr Francine Tchintseme at MBH continues as Supervisor of the children’s cancer treatment programmes. Dr Edouard Katayi treats the children at BHM. Both are experienced paediatric oncologists now. We had some concern over the treatment of our children at Banso where a new and inexperienced francophone doctor, Marlene Puepi had been appointed to the paediatric ward but our research assistant nurse at Banso, Glenn Mbah is very capable of guiding Marlene through the finer points of our Burkitt’s treatment protocol. The other two research assistant nurses, Sr Comfort Kimbi at MBH and Sr Patience Nfor are simply excellent: they are hard working and proactive. Last December we held a workshop day at Banso attended by teams from all three hospitals and funded in part by BTMAT (50%): there will be no such workshop this year but I am sure that if Prof Hesseling still has the strength to travel he will suggest that we all meet together next year.
In May Prof Hesseling and I were instrumental in the establishment of a child cancer parent organisation for the N.W. region of Cameroon (at MBH). This is a first for Cameroon and we have hopes that the Prime Minister’s wife may become a patron.