Bengal’s first private cancer hospital ostracised as patient tests Covid-19+
Founded by a legendary oncologist in 1973 and later named after him, the Saroj Gupta Cancer Centre and Research Institute at Thakurpukur on Kolkata’s southern fringes was forced to stop most of its services in the last ten days because of acute staff shortage triggered by social ostracism.
This happened soon after a patient admitted with lung cancer on April 17 was referred to Bangur Hospital, the state-run nodal hospital for Covid-19 patients, after he tested positive for coronavirus.
“Soon after the patient left the hospital, local residents and neighbours of many of our workers stopped them from coming to work, visiting markets or even collecting water from street outlets. It is extremely unfortunate that this happened, despite repeated appeals from the Union health ministry. Relatives of some staff members were also threatened,” said Dr Arnab Gupta, director of the institute and the founder’s grandson.
“I contacted the state health department and moved the police administration. The situation started improving since this morning,” Dr Gupta told HT on Monday afternoon.
Equipped with 310 beds and modern amenities, the non-profit institute, which is run by a trust, has 850 staff members. There are more than 180 doctors on its panel. Recognized by the World Health Organisation, the institute is a member of the Union for International Cancer Control, Geneva.
“We had to stop several services and defer chemotherapy sessions and operations. Despite our efforts, many patients were compelled to go home. We kept around 55 patients, some of whom are in critical condition and the rest are children.” said Dr Gupta. “On April 19, there were only 15 staff members on duty. I had to join them,” he added.
“The police campaigned in the local neighbourhoods and told people that they should appreciate the efforts being put in by health workers and doctors. We said cancer patients need special care, as much as Covid-19 patients do,” an officer at Thakurpukur police station said on condition of anonymity.
Popularly known as Thakurpukur cancer hospital, the institute was Bengal’s first private cancer hospital to boast of modern facilities but treat patients at a nominal cost. It was first known as Cancer Centre Welfare Home and Research Institute. Dr Saroj Gupta was helped by a handful of doctors and social workers to set up the facility with 25 beds. They raised the earliest funds by staging a play scripted by the oncologist (Dr Saroj Gupta) who also played a cancer patient.