Infrastructure, trained manpower, early detection and treatment and affordable medicines are the four vital limbs of cancer care. Health is a state subject, and if we want to make cancer care accessible to all, medical colleges across Maharashtra should be able to provide the same.
They should be equipped with diagnostic and treatment facilities to ensure early detection and timely care, especially for the needy. Availability of cancer treatment in rural and tribal areas will help bring down the financial burden on the patients.
A healthcare facility cannot survive without trained human resources. We need to train doctors in the field of oncology and support branches such as pathology, anaesthesiology, radiology, palliative care and nuclear medicine.
We have already seen positive changes brought by ceaseless efforts undertaken so far in this direction. Now is the time to create a better cancer-care infrastructure in Maharashtra. Institutes such as Aurangabad Medical College Cancer Hospital have been treating patients since 2012 and has well-functioning surgical, radiation and medical oncology departments. It has been named State Cancer Institute and has been sanctioned Rs 97 crore from the centre to upgrade the existing facilities. With this funding, the institute will increase its bed strength from 120 to 250 by 2020.
Recently, a cancer hospital has been sanctioned at Nagpur Medical College. With the help of state government and philanthropic support from Tata Trust and Mineral Corporation of India, a 100-bed comprehensive cancer hospital will be commissioned on the campus of Government Medical College, Chandrapur, by 2021.
A healthcare facility cannot survive without trained human resources. We need to train doctors in the field of oncology and support branches such as pathology, anesthesiology, radiology, palliative care and nuclear medicine.
Fighting with cancer needs political will and strong conviction from policymakers. The state government should send mid-level faculty members from government medical colleges for regular training at Tata Hospital. Sometimes due to manpower crunch at medical colleges, the doctors cannot be sent for external training which is crucial to upgrade their knowledge.
We need to create a system where A-Z of cancer treatment is available under one roof. Surgery and chemotherapy can be easily done at medical colleges, and if we add radiation departments, the facility will become full-fledged and will be able to treat thousands of patients.
We have also observed that a lot of patients and their families have the tendency to leave their treatment mid-way due to financial burden. Affordable medicines will help save thousands of people who cannot afford expensive treatment. The state government must work towards making cancer drugs affordable for the poor and needy. Also, if these medicines can be made available at cheaper costs at the medical colleges, thousands of patients will be benefitted.
Over the next five years, we need to work together to create a robust infrastructure in providing affordable cancer care. Initiatives such as training medical officers in the district hospital to administer chemotherapy should be expanded further to all the districts.
Another key aspect is spreading awareness about the ill-effects of tobacco, alcohol and faulty lifestyle. They are among the main reasons for cancer, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. If we create awareness in the society, then cancer cases can be reduced to a great extent. Knowledge and awareness will also encourage people to get health check-ups at regular intervals that can help detect cancer at the early stages. Creating widespread awareness through campaigns about the importance of nutrition, cleanliness and personal hygiene also plays a pivotal role in disease management.
The author is the Dean of Academics, Tata Memorial Centre (Projects)