Cancer: Diagnosis done, Punjab must tackle the cure

The first-ever cancer headcount in Punjab is just the start. While the state government deserves a pat for conducting such a comprehensive survey where the sample size was almost the entire population, now the onus is on the Health Department to provide those suffering from cancer or suspected to have the disease treatment options.

Of the 2.65 lakh persons screened in the door-to-door campaign, 23,874 were found to be cancer patients while 84,453 carried symptoms of the disease. This poses a challenge to the Health Department not only in terms of numbers, but also in the sense of urgency that needs to be shown to tackle this crisis.

The patients have been given referral cards and asked to report for free treatment to almost 35 empanelled private and government hospitals, including the three medical colleges in the state. However, the ground reality at government district hospitals, as well as the medical colleges, is that they simply don't have the infrastructure or the manpower to handle the cancer numbers. The state is facing an acute shortage of medical specialists and several efforts of the government to get MD doctors to work for them have shown poor results. With no oncologists in district hospitals, medical colleges can't be expected to handle this kind of a rush of patients.

As for the empanelled private hospitals, these will need much more than referral cards to straight away admit patients and start treatment, to say the least.

The government has obviously not learnt any lessons from its school healthcare programme experience. Children detected with heart ailments were to be treated by empanelled private hospitals but their parents ended up waiting months for the paperwork to be completed before the child could even make it to the surgery table.

To think that corporate healthcare providers would be more compassionate towards cancer patients is asking for too much.

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