Even as health authorities claim that there is no such provision in the scheme, families of patients undergoing treatment for cancer for past many years at Gehri Bhagi village near here have come forward to claim compensation under the chief minister's Cancer Relief Fund.
The financial condition of the people affected by cancer in this village has taken a hit. Years of expensive treatment has financially drained out the affected families and it is becoming difficult for them to make ends meet leave alone carrying on with the treatment.
Some members of the affected families, who had gathered at a village gurdwara to apply for the relief fund, rued that hefty expenses on treatment of the disease, when this relief fund was not in place, has pushed them into tight financial position.
Though there are no proper records to assess the number of patients who are suffering from the disease at the village, residents claim that majority people do not want to come forward to report the disease due to social stigma and the number of cancer patients is much more than anticipated.
Angrej Kaur (60) and her sister, Gurmel Kaur (55), both are undergoing treatment for cervical cancer for past eight and six years, respectively. Talking to HT, Angrej Kaur rued, "Both of us were married in one family in the village and both are affected with the disease. I have undergone about 40 sessions of radiotherapy while my sister had about 35. More than `5 lakh each has been spent on our treatment by our families till now," she said.
"Though we have exhausted all our resources on purchasing costly medicines, we still have to take costly medicines on regular basis. To meet the treatment expenses, our family had sold 5 acres of land in Shergarh, Rajasthan. With limited income sources, we are finding it difficult to bear the further cost of treatment," Gurmel Kaur said, adding that both of them had decided to apply for the relief fund, which will be of big help to them.
Jasbir Singh, another cancer patient is undergoing treatment for the past eight years. "Right now I am undergoing treatment from a private hospital in Rajasthan. As I work as a labourer, I am finding it difficult to carry on with the treatment, so I want some financial assistance from the state government," he said.
Mohinder Singh, whose wife Naseeb Kaur was diagnosed with cancer last month, said he was not aware that any such financial help was available but now he would apply for the relief fund. His wife is undergoing cancer treatment at Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital, Faridkot.
Kewal Krishan, a leader of Bharti Kisan Union and a former registered medical practitioner in the village who is mobilising people to apply under the scheme, said the affected families in the village are living in a bad condition. "We will urge the state government to depute some health officials to take stock of the situation in village, including prevalence of disease and the resources people have, to get the real picture," he said.
Civil surgeon Ajay Sahni when asked that if people undergoing treatment for the past many years and those who are now surviving on regular medicines can apply under the scheme or not said the scheme is only for those who, as of now, are undergoing treatment at the empanelled hospitals and the treatment cost is paid directly to hospital and not to the patient.