| Himanta Biswa Sarma during the interactive session at the GMCH on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, June 26: The Assam government has decided to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the country’s top-bracket private hospital — Narayana Hrudayalaya — for free bone marrow transplant of children suffering from leukaemia and thalassemia.
Health and family welfare minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the number of children suffering from leukaemia and thalassemia is increasing fast in the state and many parents are frustrated by the high cost of treatment of the diseases.
“The health department will spend Rs 7.5 lakh for bone marrow transplant against every children having leukaemia or thalassemia. The state government will soon sign an MoU with Bangalore-based Narayana Hrudayalaya to arrange the treatment,” Sarma said while interacting with parents of children having congenital heart disease at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital here this afternoon.
Leukaemia is cancer of the blood or bone marrow (which produces blood cells). Thalassemia is a blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of haemoglobin which results in excessive destruction of red blood cells.
A bone marrow transplant is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. This facility is not available in government or private hospitals in Assam.
“A few days ago, a section of the media had highlighted that a father of three children, who were suffering from thalassemia, in the state was on the verge of committing suicide for not being able to bear the treatment cost. The government has viewed the news very seriously and decided to send all the three children to Narayana Hrudayalaya for bone marrow transplant. Similar treatment will be provided to other children too,” Sarma said.
A doctor at the GMCH said though the exact causes for rise in the number of children suffering from leukaemia are yet to be ascertained, genetic causes, exposure to toxic environmental pollutants, radiation, benzene-containing drugs and change in lifestyle and diet might be some of the reasons.
Sarma said the state government is sending 445 children with congenital heart disease to Narayana Hrudayalaya for free treatment within July and August. He said the government had launched the scheme of free treatment to the children in 2010 and so far 2,010 have been successfully treated.
“After launching the heart treatment scheme, awareness among parents about the disease has increased. The number of child patients coming for screening camps in government hospitals to be screened is rising every year,” the minister said.