Burdwan, Oct. 20: Burdwans Ashok Malik had to stay for a month in Calcutta to get radiotherapy for his cancer-struck wife Heera done because the government hospital in their hometown hasnt fixed its machine for over a year.
My wife had to undergo a month-long radiotherapy at SSKM Hospital and we had to stay in a hotel for a month. The treatment is turning out to be too expensive for me. I had to spend Rs 6,000 for the radiotherapy package. Later, I travelled with my wife back and forth from Burdwan to Calcutta every day for a month, said the stationery goods supplier whose wife is suffering from cancer of the jaw for about five months.
Ashok isnt alone. Countless patients are facing a similar predicament or even worse as the radiotherapy and CT scan machines have been lying out of order at the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital.
The worst hit appear to be the nearly 3,000 cancer patients consulting the oncologists at the hospital as the tele-cobalt machine — from which radioactive rays are emitted to the cancer-affected part of a patient — is lying idle.
Deputy superintendent of the hospital Dilip Kumar Jha claimed the radioactive source in the radiotherapy machine had to be changed periodically and the process was time-consuming. We need to load a new radioactive source in our machine. For this, we have to apply to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) in Mumbai. The process is time-consuming. We hope to get it within the next two months, said Jha.
But health department sources said the hospital had sent its application to the AERB late. There is a long queue at AERB of applications from various hospitals and cancer research institutes in the country. The BMCH should have realised when the radioactive source in the machine would be exhausted. They should have applied much earlier, an official said.
Patients stream into the hospital every day not only from Burdwan but also neighbouring Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum and Hooghly, some even from Jharkhand.
Most of the patients require radiotherapy. As our machine for radiotherapy is not working, we are referring the patients to NRS and SSKM Hospitals in Calcutta. On average, we are referring five patients to Calcutta for radiotherapy every week, said Amitava Roy, the head of the hospitals oncology department.
Debibar Chatterjee, 63, a cancer patient of Asansol town and a retired IISCO employee, is staying at a relatives house in Calcutta, 100kms away, for radiotherapy at NRS Hospital. If the radiotherapy machine at the Burdwan hospital was in a working condition, I would not have had to travel all the way to Calcutta, said Chatterjee.
Subir Ganguly, oncologist and head of the radiotherapy department at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Calcutta, said 80 per cent of the 70,000 new cancer cases reported in Bengal every year needed radiotherapy.
CT scans, a routine but critical part of treatment for many ailments, have also not been possible at the Burdwan hospital, forcing many to turn to private clinics where they have to cough up double the price.
The camera in the CT scan machine needs to be replaced. We have not been told whether the machine will be repaired or replaced, said deputy superintendent Jha.