Rajkumari Misra, 42, passed away in November last year after waiting for almost 11 months to get radiation therapy and surgery for her uterine cancer at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
In the time she waited for a radiation therapy date at AIIMS, Misra’s cancer metastasized and spread to other organs in her body.
“The doctors said she would need both radiation and chemotherapy, only after which they would operate on her. But, there was a long waiting period. After waiting for around 11 months, we went to a private hospital but it was too late by then,” said Ramji Misra, her husband.
Misra is just one of the hundreds of patients who wait for months or years at an end to get a surgery at AIIMS, the country’s premiere hospital.
Doctors say that huge patient loads, coupled with patients being referred from hospitals across the country lead to the unusually long waiting periods.
Almost 10,000 people come for treatment at the hospital’s out-patient department every day and around 2,000 patients are admitted at AIIMS at any given point.
A patient coming to the hospital may have to wait for anything between a few hours to a few years for a surgery depending on their condition and severity of the disease they are suffering from.
“In cases where even a minute delay may result in the loss of a life, surgery is performed within a few hours. But, in routine cases, dates are given according to what disease they have and how long can a patient live without intervention,” said S Kale, professor of the department of neurosurgery at AIIMS.
“Patients with brain problems get preference over patients with spine problems because brain problems may result in death, but problems of the spine can result in loss of mobility,” he added.
The maximum waiting period in any department at AIIMS at present is three to four years, according to the medical superintendant of the hospital. “The waiting period can range from just a few days to three or four years. We prioritise cases where the patients need immediate surgery and in specialised cases where we know that patients will not be able to get treatment elsewhere,” said Dr DK Sharma.
The maximum waiting period in the hospital is in the paediatric surgery, neurosurgery and cardiac surgery departments.