Tertiary Care Cancer Centre yet to see the light of the day
Rs. 13.23 crores already sanctioned by GoI
Kohima, August 1 (EMN): Despite the fact that about 600 new cancer cases are being detected every year in the state where about 50% of cancer patients receive only chemotherapy or no treatment at all, as informed by a senior pathologist at NHAK, the sorry state of affairs is that there is not a single functional government radiotherapy centre in the state.
While the affluent section and government employees (who can reimburse their expenses) go outside the state for treatment, the general population comprising of 85% patients do not have the luxury to do so.
Sensing the urgent need due to the high prevalent rate of cancer and the difficulties faced by the patients to go outside the state for radiotherapy treatment, NHAK had applied for a Tertiary Care Cancer Centre (TCCC) under TCCC scheme of NPCDCS for district hospitals.
It may be noted that NHAK was conferred autonomous status in 2004 and has been functioning as a district hospital as well as a State Referral Centre.
There has been a ray of hope when the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India agreed to sponsor the 45 crore project where the first instalment of Rs. 13.23 crore was released for establishing a Tertiary Care Cancer Centre (TCCC) at Naga Hospital Authority Kohima during the financial year 2016-17.
Out of the total 45 crores where the state government has agreed for 10% share (90:10), Managing Director, NHAK, Dr Neikhrielie Khimia-o talking to Eastern Mirror informed that Rs 13.5 crore is earmarked for the civil works while the rest are for procurement of equipments for the radiotherapy.
Following the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of India and Government of Nagaland for NHAK and approval of the site and layout at NHAK by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), an amount of Rs. 13.23 crore (Thirteen crore, twenty three lakhs) have been released in four phases between December 2016 and February 2017.
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, GoI has sanctioned and released the grant for setting up of TCCC. It has released Rs 153 lakh on 19/12/2016; Rs 396.98 lakh on 19/12/2016; Rs 467.02 lakh on 30/12/2016 and another Rs 306 lakh on 07/02/2017 as per the records made available to Eastern Mirror
The inspection for the proposed site for establishment of the radiotherapy unit at Kohima was carried out by an expert team from Borooah Cancer Institute, Guwahati on May 30 and 31 2017. Though it been alleged that some senior officers in the department and politicians trying to merge the TCCC with the proposed medical college at Phebagei, the inspection team has clearly stated that the distance of 8 kms from this site to NHAK is unlikely to be accepted by MoHFW, GoI as per the criteria for attached hospital, which is based on concern for the safety of patients.
And as per the MoU, the project must be completed within two years lest the first instalment if unutilised will go back to the Ministry by December 2017. Unfortunately, after a lapse of seven months since the money was sanctioned, TCCC Kohima is yet to see the daylight.
The team has recommended on the urgent need for a radiotherapy unit under government sector in Nagaland, owing to the significantly higher cost of treatment in the private sector, the general populace cannot be adequately covered by the existing and upcoming private radiotherapy facilities.
It also placed on record that there are 3 radiation oncologists, 2 radiation physicists and 2 radiotherapy technologists currently employed with the state government.
Expressing grave concern on the non-release of funds by the finance department, despite repeated appeals made by NHAK, MD NHAK, Dr Neikhrielie Khimia-o said as the project is to be completed within two years, if the first instalment that has been released is not utilised by December the money will revert to the ministry and will be at a big loss for the state.
Stating that TCCC Naga Hospital is one of the recognised centres among the 104 TCCCs in the country, Dr Khimia-o asserted that the issue of TCCC and the medical college cannot be mixed up.
He pointed that hundreds of crores are going outside from the state for treatment of cancer and the harassment that our people has to undergo while the officials of the department and politicians not realising the problems have been delaying the project for too long for reasons best known to them.
When the detailed presentation was mad, Dr Khimia-o said, the Director of Cancer Registry had readily accepted the proposal for setting up of TCCC in presence of eleven other states, which was followed by the Annual Review meeting of NCRP 2016 at Kohima.
The TCCC should be made a reality at the earliest for the benefit and welfare of the people, Dr Khimia said.
Senior Pathologist NHAK, Dr V Khamo citing cancer as a major public health problem in the state said there is huge drainage of state exchequer for treatment of cancer patients going outside the state. Cancer patients especially those coming from villages and remote areas are unable to afford the treatment. Moreover, she pointed out that most of them cannot even afford the journey fares due to financial problems such as low income, savings and poor road connectivity.
Expressing concern that many cancer patients are not treated due to non-availability of cancer care facilities in the state, Dr Khamo said the main concerns as working doctors is to see that the patients gets the basic amenities especially for cancer patients.
While stating that there is no dearth of manpower in the hospital, specialists, oncologist ward where cancer patients are treated with chemotherapy at present, she said the urgent requirement is a radiotherapy department.
Nagaland is the only state in the country that doesn’t have the facility for treatment of cancer patients, informed Dr Khamo.
Mention may be made that certificate and recommendation for setting up of TCCC at NHAK was made by Rajiv Bansal, IAS, the then principal secretary H&FW. In a letter dated May 6, 2014, Bansal stated that the state government recommended the proposal for a total grant of Rs 45 crores with 90% shared by the GoI to be utilised in NHAK for development of TCCC. And that the state government share of 10% would be released to as per guidelines of the government of India.