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Cancer patients suffer as drugs fall short

BATHINDA: Cancer patients visiting the oncology unit of the NCD (non-communicable diseases) centre at the Civil Hospital are facing a tough time following short and erratic supply of chemo drugs for over a year now.

Cancer patients suffer as drugs fall short

The inflow of cancer patients at the oncology unit of the NCD centre at the Civil Hospital has halved in Bathinda. Tribune photo



Sumeer Singh

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 26

Cancer patients visiting the oncology unit of the NCD (non-communicable diseases) centre at the Civil Hospital are facing a tough time following short and erratic supply of chemo drugs for over a year now.

Left barely with any choice, the patients are forced to buy medicines at exorbitant prices from private drug stores.

With the problem of shortage of medicines persisting for over a year now, the inflow of cancer patients at the oncology unit has also halved.

A majority of patients visiting the NCD centre are from low socio-economic strata, who cannot afford to get treatment at private hospitals in the city.

Surprisingly, the unit is running out of combination medicines required to administer chemotherapy for the past one year and despite several reminders to officials of the Health Department, patients are returning without medicines from the hospital.

Vandana Midha, medical oncologist at the NCD centre, said, “Despite submitting written demands to the NCD state unit (Chandigarh) on several occasions, we have not received regular supply of chemo drugs and other medicines. Shortage of funds has often been cited as the reason for not supplying medicines by the authorities.”

“It is difficult for poor cancer patients, who have already availed of Rs 1.5 lakh under the Mukh Mantri Punjab Cancer Raahat Kosh to purchase medicines and have to resume their treatment from a government hospital now,” Midha added.

As per the cancer control programme of the State Health Department, chemotherapy medicines are provided free of cost to cancer patients at district hospitals and medical colleges.

But except for few, a majority of the combination medicines required to administer chemotherapy have not been supplied to the medical oncology unit.

Until a year ago, the oncology unit of the NCD centre witnessed 600 patients (on average) on monthly basis, but ever since the supply of medicines came down, the number of patients has come down to 250 subsequently.

Civil Surgeon Dr Hari Narain Singh said, “We ensure on our own end that medicine supply remains constant in the district and if medicines are not being supplied, it could be from the head office (Chandigarh) itself. The unit staff concerned need to check with senior medical officer of the civil hospital if the medicines are available here or not.”

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