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Shelter for cancer patients

The shelter under construction. (Bishwarup Dutta)

Tata Medical Center is building an 11-storeyed shelter for patients undergoing prolonged treatment at the cancer hospital to stay with their families.

Special classes will be held for child patients to help them cope with the loss of school days.

Premashray, coming up opposite Rabindra Tirtha at a cost of Rs 41 crore, is set to be opened by October. The spot is at a walking distance from the hospital.

“Construction is complete till the 10th floor and work on the interiors has started. We are planning to open the facility by October,” said V.R. Ramanan, the deputy director (medical) of the hospital, at a programme to commission the second PET-CT (positron emission tomography-computed tomography) machine.

The building will have more than 200 rooms and will accommodate around 500 people, including relatives of patients. Thirty rooms will be set aside for the terminally ill, who will be provided palliative care.

“Patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy and those undergoing rehabilitation need to visit the hospital regularly. Each visit stretches from one-and-a-half to two months. Many of our patients come from far-flung districts and neighbouring states and countries. They will get rooms at a minimal cost,” said Ramanan.

The tariff has not been decided yet but sources said the cheapest room would cost Rs 100 a day. “All rooms will have attached toilets. There will be three suites, which would be slightly more expensive,” said the source.

More than 80,000 cases of cancer are reported each year in Bengal. The total number of cancer patients in the state is around three lakh. Health department officials said 40 per cent of the patients are in the districts of Bengal.

Many of these patients suffer from types of cancer that don’t require admission and can be treated at the day-care facility. Since they come from distant places, it’s not possible for them to return home after each session of chemo or radiation therapy.

“Often the patients need therapy once or twice a week. Many patients can’t commute between home and the hospital so frequently because of the critical state they are in. The shelter has been set up keeping their condition in mind,” said a doctor at the hospital.

Also, after critical surgeries, patients need to come several times at short intervals for follow-ups.

During their stay in the city or its surrounding areas, patients and their relatives are forced to rent rooms at guest houses and hotels, which cost them between Rs 400 and Rs 1,200 or more a day.

“Cancer treatment is very expensive. The patients’ funds are drained further if they have to rent rooms for days on end,” said surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay.

Tata Medical Center hopes Premashray will be of help to parents whose children suffer from cancer. “Special classes will be held for the children so they do not suffer academically because of their long absence from schools. Trained volunteers will be hired for taking the classes. The children will need individual care as they will study in different classes,” said a hospital official.

“We plan to create a community atmosphere with common washing and drying blocks and kitchen areas. Each such zone will be accessed by the occupants of four to seven rooms. This will help them share their woes and create a bond,” the official said.

The hospital’s second PET-CT scan machine was inaugurated by Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairman, State Bank of India.

There is a week’s waiting list for patients in need of CT and PET-CT scan.

The waiting time is likely to be halved. More PET-CT scan machines will be bought following the hospital’s expansion, said officials.