High-end care at affordable rates at Jhajjar’s National Cancer Institute
Services at the National Cancer Institute in Jhajjar will open in three phases, with the OPD (out-patient department), 250 beds, ICU (intensive care unit) and operation theatres (OTs) getting operational in phase 1, 500 beds in phase 2 by December 2019, and 710 beds by 2020, when the institute will be fully operational.Updated: Mar 05, 2019 11:30 IST
Dr G K Rath, head of National Cancer Institute (NCI) Jhajjar, is on a mission to eradicate the deadly disease from India in 15 years by taking affordable and high quality cancer care to the poor. “It will happen in my lifetime, that I’m very sure of,” said Rath, who is also the head of the Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the faculty and staff from where they are working overtime to set up the Jhajjar hospital.
“The game changer will be bridging the treatment gap between the rich and the poor and providing high-end diagnostics using the latest medical technology, molecular medicine, and proton therapy to everyone,” said Dr Rath.
Services will open in three phases, with the OPD (out-patient department), 250 beds, ICU (intensive care unit) and operation theatres (OTs) getting operational in phase 1, 500 beds in phase 2 by December 2019, and 710 beds by 2020, when the institute will be fully operational. Land prices around the institute have already shot up, and property dealers and chemists have opened shops in anticipation of brisk business on Badli Road, on which the hospital is situated.
With the phase 1 deadline ending in March, the NCI began admitting patients for chemotherapy and palliative care on February 22 and there are six to 10 patients in the emergency room at any given time. The surgical team headed by Dr SVS Deo, head of surgical oncology, AIIMS Delhi, and Dr Sushma Bhatnagar, head of onco-anaesthesia and palliative medicine, AIIMS, plans to start operating this week in some of the 25 modular OTs designed for efficient workflow, precision surgery and optimal sterilisation to lower on-site surgical infections.
“The surgery and all communication in the OTs are recorded realtime and the surgical summary sent directly to the ICU, which is integrated with the OT. The medical records are digital, the only paper used is the final discharge summary given to patients,” said Dr Deo. Digitisation, he said, not only improves efficiency and lowers the chances of manual errors but also safeguards doctors against false allegations of negligence.
NCI is not only the most advanced cancer centre in the public sector, it’s also the cheapest. While registration costs Rs 10, ‘short ‘admission charges are Rs 60 for one day, and ‘long’ admission of six days or more costs Rs 365.
Manoj Ram, 48, from Hanuman Nagar village in Sitamarhi district of Bihar was diagnosed with a germ cell tumour six months ago and underwent surgery at the Darbhanga Medical College Hospital. Now, he was admitted to NCI for chemotherapy on February 27, and has paid Rs 365 for his bed, consumables, medicines and doctors’ visits. “I’m a daily wager. I can’t earn if I’m in hospital. I get a lot of attention from doctors here. I want to get well soon,” said Ram.
“It’s a curable cancer. His final review is next week and then he can go home,” said Dr Bhatnagar, who travels to Jhajjar at least two to three times a week to review cases with senior residents.
In the next bed is Azad Sorouth, 21, from Hodal in Palwal district, Haryana, who was also diagnosed with germ cell tumour after he lost 15kg over three months and started coughing blood four months ago. “We initially sought Ayurvedic treatment. But when it didn’t help, he underwent surgery at Asian Institute of Medical Sciences in Faridabad. As we couldn’t afford private treatment, we went to AIIMS, Delhi, from where he was referred here,” said Sorouth’s brother-inlaw Anil Kumar.
The NCI is offering comprehensive cancer care, which includes preventive, curative and palliative care to manage pain and complications. “We have prioritised palliative and end-of-life care, which involves counselling patients on how to cope and what to expect, empowering families on care, and safe use of opioids for pain,” said Dr Bhatnagar.
“All hospitals must have humane endof-life policies. We all have a right to die with dignity surrounded by our family and friends and not spend the last few days of our lives intubated in an ICU surrounded by strangers. Patients must have the choice, it’s the humane way,” said Dr Bhatnagar.
As the patient load increases by the year end , teaching, training and research will accelerate. “The best cancer doctors in India will be coming out of NCI, there is no doubt about that,” said Dr Rath.
(The patients have consented to be named and photographed for the publication.)