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Hope swells and ebbs
- Cancer detection unit opens, but lock on radiotherapy

Burdwan, Jan. 27: The Burdwan Medical College and Hospital today inaugurated a colposcopy unit, the first in the state outside Calcutta, for early detection of cervical cancer, a common occurrence among women in India.

But the news was marred by closure of the radiotherapy unit after the lone physicist-cum-radiation safety officer (RSO), Atanu Kumar, made a career move.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has made an RSO mandatory in a radiotherapy unit. The official monitors the dose of radiation and maintenance of the cobalt machines.

About 900 cancer patients use the radiotherapy unit.

A section of doctors blamed the health department for the closure of the unit. 'The RSO was given an ad hoc appointment by the health department three years ago and was not regularised by having his name recommended by the public service commission. He used to be given Rs 15,000 per month. He has bagged a permanent job in a central government-run cancer hospital in Calcutta where he will draw at least Rs 8,000 more,' a doctor said.

Director of medical education C.R. Maity, who inaugurated the colposcopy unit, was embarrassed over the unit's indefinite closure. 'A number of posts of RSOs have fallen vacant. We are trying to fill up the vacancies. We hope to reopen the radiotherapy unit here very soon,' he said.

Subir Ganguly, oncologist and head of the radiotherapy department, said it would be difficult to manage the backlog of patients. 'About 50 patients come to the department every day and we are booked till April. So, one can imagine the problem,' he added.

One of them, Swati Das, blamed the government for the uncertainty. 'I am virtually waiting for death. We used to get a date for treatment after waiting for five months. Where will we go now for treatment' she asked.

But the colposcope could save many women from her fate. Debashis Bhattacharya, head of the gynaecology department, said the machine can detect cervical cancer in a pre-cancer stage.

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