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Centre’s fund push for cancer hospital

The Centre has breathed new life into a Rs 650-crore cancer hospital project in Calcutta that had been in limbo for 10 years since being conceived because of lack of funds from Delhi.

The first tranche of funds for the 500-bedded second campus of the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute arrived from the Centre a week back, soon after Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury of the Congress was sworn in as Union minister of state for health.

“We received a token fund of Rs 25 lakh around a week back. The formal process of getting clearances from various agencies has started,” said CNCI director Joydip Biswas.

The plan to set up the second campus of the state-run hospital was mooted in 2003-04 but the 10-acre plot in New Town Action Area I that was earmarked for it in 2008 is still lying vacant.

“I will call a meeting of senior officials of the hospital next week in Delhi to discuss the problems (faced by the project). Work will start on a priority basis,” Khan Chowdhury told Metro.

The state government is to provide 10 per cent of the infrastructure capital and 20 per cent of the recurring and maintenance cost of the project, while the rest will be borne by the Centre. “If the state doesn’t provide funds, the Centre will bear all the cost,” said Khan Chowdhury.

His predecessor in the ministry, Sudip Bandopadhyay of Trinamul, had announced in February that funds had been allocated for the superspeciality hospital but government sources said not a penny had come till last week. He had said construction of the nine-storeyed building would start in this financial year.

According to sources, the safety nod from the Airports Authority of India, a must for any highrise in the vicinity of the airport, has come.

The project, planned near the 167-bedded Tata Medical Center, another dedicated cancer hospital, has been conceived in two phases. The first phase will come up at a cost of Rs 337 crore and have 300 beds and is likely to be ready in two years, said Biswas.

The hospital will be spread across 80,000sq m and one entire floor will be used for clinical research and development of drugs.

Apart from all oncology subspecialities, the hospital will have a nursing college, a centre for rehab medicine and a nuclear medicine hub. It will also have a bone marrow transplant unit, a facility that charges exorbitant rates at most private centres. Robotic surgery and advanced radiotherapy facilities would also be available, said officials. “The treatment will be subsidised,” said Biswas.

Every year around 80,000 people in Bengal are afflicted with cancer, many of whom are forced to go out of the state for treatment because of lack of facilities here. Around 3,500 of the 30,000-odd cancer patients treated at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai are from Bengal.

“There is a dearth of multi-disciplinary and comprehensive treatment facilities for cancer under one roof in Bengal,” said surgical oncologist Gautam Mukhopadhyay.

Health department officials said the state needed an additional 800-1,000 subsidised beds for cancer treatment.

AIIMS-like hospital: Union minister Khan Chowdhury asserted that the proposed AIIMS-like hospital at Raiganj in North Dinajpur would be a reality.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee wants the hospital to be set up at Kalyani on the grounds that land was unavailable in the north Bengal town. Khan Chowdhury, however, said: “Many farmers in Raiganj want to give land for the hospital. The Centre will either buy land from them or provide them with alternative land.”