Though it sounds hard to believe, the Delhi State Cancer Institute (DSCI) offers free cutting-edge cancer treatment to all its general category patients.
It is the first hospital in the government sector to have the latest cancer-fighting equipment, among with three linear accelerators with intensity-modulated radiation therapy and image guided radiotherapy treatments and a 128-slice CT Scan for imaging. Over the next six months, they will get a Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan) needed for precise localisation of tumours.
"There is a big contribution of imaging in treating complicated cancers. So while, we have good radiation machines, it was important to procure the high-tech imaging machines to diagnose the disease precisely," said Dr RK Grover, director, DSCI.
"A good imaging system is also useful in evaluating the response to the treatment, during treatment itself. It also helps track relapses," he said.
In Delhi, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and private hospitals such as Fortis, Gangaram, Shanti Mukund also have PET scan machines, and they charge about Rs 20,000 per scan.
"Although we have placed the order, we are awaiting the AERB clearance in the coming week. This will be the first Delhi government hospital to have a PET CT," said Dr Grover.
Established as an autonomous institute in April 2006 by Delhi government, the hospital has 66 general and 29 private beds.
On an average, it gets 700 patients a day, of which about 40 are new cases. All treatment is completely free - including tests, medicines, stay and food for patients opting for treatment in the general category.
So far, only medical and radiotherapy treatment is available, and the hospital's four operation-theatres are likely to be functional by the year-end. Dr Grover says that so far, tie-ups with GB Pant, Swami Dayanand and GTB hospitals have been instrumental in bridging the surgery unit lacunae.
When Sameer (who goes by a single name), 7, was diagnosed with cancer of the lymphnodes last year, his father, Rashid, a labourer in Muzaffarnagar, sold his shack and jewellery to pay for his son's treatment.
"I got about Rs 34,000 for everything, which is a fraction of the money required for treatment," said Rashid, whose son is undergoing free treatment at Delhi State Cancer Institute in east Delhi's Dilshad Garden.
Then someone told him about the free government hospital, and he hopped on to the first bus to Delhi with his son. Today, he's happy for it.
Similarly, Anita Rani, 40, from Shamli village in Uttar Pradesh, has no complaints. She was diagnosed with a uterine cancer in October 2009. On a relative's recommendation she shifted base to Delhi last year to get treated.
"We were financially and mentally devastated. I told my husband to leave me to my fate, when he brought me to this hospital," said Rani, who has been undergoing treatment for the last 1.5 months.
"They take care of everything. Now that I am in good hands, I am sure I will live," she said.