In sheer absence of super-specialists for treatment of cancer in government hospitals, the Max Healthcare, a private health chain, on Saturday began its two-day 'cancer detection and counselling' camps in all 22 government district hospitals and the three government medical colleges in the state.
Targeting a heavy clientele, oncologists from outside camped in the OPDs since morning, zeroing in on the predictable cases of cancer, categorising the patients in four categories, from symptom-related to full-blown cases.
A 67-year-old patient with a big malignant tumour on his head helplessly lay on a bench in the corridors of the Mohali hospital, with a complaint that his poor son had already spent some Rs 50,000 on his medicines in less than four months.
This category 'A' patient, Labh Singh, was asked to come again on Monday, so that he could be referred to one of the hospitals empanelled under the 'Chief Minister's Cancer Cure Fund'.
Labh Singh's son Gurdeep was worried - "the maximum fund under the scheme is Rs 1.5 lakh, but the treatment runs into lakhs".
His assertions were not wrong. The radiotherapy, before the actual treatment, costs between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1 lakh depending on the case in the private empanelled hospitals like Max and Fortis. The PGI charges Rs 1,500.
On Saturday, the Max Healthcare and its team of diagnostic experts from Hyderabad zeroed in on 50 such patients who would immediately be referred for radiotherapy, to begin with.
As per the mandatory guidelines of the 'Mukh Mantri Cancer Rahat Kosh', the payment to the private hospitals empanelled under the scheme would be made as per the PGI rates.
However, Punjab health and family welfare director Dr Ashok Nayyar, when contacted, said the empanelled private hospitals ought to charge 25-30% less than their existing cost of treatment "as per an agreement".
The question arises, how many of these 50 would be referred to the PGI or Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, looking at their financial position, for maximum utilisation of the Rs 1.5 lakh funded under the state scheme.
In Muktsar district hospital, the Max authorities have identified 620 cases, both confirmed and suspected patients.
Similarly, 460 patients were scanned in Bathinda, 599 in Mansa and 621 in Muktsar district hospitals.
"They (the Max Healthcare) have taken the cases and will confirm their status tomorrow," a senior government doctor told HT on phone from the Bathinda district hospital.
Lookout for oncologists
The Punjab medical education department, three months back, had notified 33 new posts of super-specialists in oncology, mainly for masters in surgery (M Ch), masters in nuclear medicine and radiologists in oncology in its two medical colleges - Government Medical College and Hospital, Patiala, and Government Medical College and Hospital, Amritsar.
None of these newly created posts had been filled so far, while the drive was on for the much-needed recruitment, a senior official in the medical education here said.