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Punjab Offers New Hope On The Horizon

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The Punjab Government has rolled out a series of schemes for patients suffering from cancer and Hepatitis C bringing much needed relief to the masses. Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN) traces the changes brought about by schemes implemented recently.

Punjab has suffered the scourge of cancer, more so in the rural areas, with almost every family, in some areas of the State, reporting at least one member of the family falling prey to the deadly disease.

Till five years ago the State health authorities struggled to grapple with the problem and meet the dire needs of cancer patients. For the past five years, lack of medical infrastructure and benefit schemes, has been a thing of the past as the State Government has got its act together and made available state-of-the-art infrastructure for treatment, palliative care of the cancer patients.

Punjab’s Health Minister Brahm Mohindra said under “Mukh Mantri Punjab Cancer Rahat Kosh”, financial assistance up to Rs 1.5 lakh is provided for treatment to each patient under the scheme. “All those cancer patients who are residents of the state are eligible under the scheme. Services are being provided by the Government and empanelled hospitals.”

As of now, the State Government has spent Rs 561 crore on the treatment of over 44,500 patients.

It has long been believed but never proved by scientific studies in a conclusive way that the country’s food bowl has paid a heavy price as farmers have been using high doses of pesticides to maintain crops and this, in turn, has led to spike in cancer patients in the State.

While debate rages around this blief, the State government has walked the extra mile to provide care to the sufferers.

Highlighting other schemes of the Government, principal secretary, department of health and family welfare, Anjali Bhawra said the State Government has established Cancer and Drug addiction treatment infrastructure fund Act 2013 for providing better prevention and treatment facilities to cancer patients.

Cancer patients in the State are allowed free travel in Punjab Roadways for availing treatment.

There has been a steady demand and need to identify the cancer patients in the State and for this Population Based Cancer Registry has been established in collaboration with ICMR, Ministry of Health, Government of India, at Government Medical College Patiala.

Cancer registry at Mansa, Sangrur, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar and Chandigarh has been started in collaboration with Tata Memorial Centre Mumbai and data is being collected. Also PGI at Chandigarh is collecting data at hospital-based cancer registry.

In Bathinda, a state of art cancer diagnostic and treatment centre has been made operational in collaboration with Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai. In Sangrur too a state of art cancer treatment facility has been started by Homi Bhabha Cancer Care in District Hospital Sangrur.

Government medical colleges in the state are also equipped with latest equipment including linear accelerator, cobalt therapy, CT Stimulators, brachytherapy etc.

A national organisation, Cankids, has joined hands with state government in Punjab to fight cancer. A five year memorandum of understanding has been signed with Cankids, Kidscan, National Society for Change for Childhood Cancer in India. The organisation will have a deep focus on children suffering from cancer. The organisation took out a rally of 1,300 kms covering 15 districts to generate awareness about childhood cancer and to ensure best treatment care and support for all children detected with cancer . The rally saw presence of 14 childhood cancer survivors , parents, adult cancer survivors besides volunteers.

It is just not cancer that has been the focus area of the Government. Considering the fact that Punjab had seen a sudden spike in the number of people suffering from deadly Hepatitis C, the state government launched Mukh Mantri Punjab Hepatitis C Relief Fund. A state initiative for providing free treatment to patients of Hepatitis C , the state became the first to use oral antiviral drugs to treat the disease.

Launched in June 2016, its ambit was widened as in 2017, to mark the World Hepatitis Day, it was announced that the scheme will be expanded to screen high risk groups like HIV positive patients, intravenous drug users, jail patients for the deadly virus.

An MoU has been signed with Foundation of Innovative New Diagnostics which support screening of high risk groups and will provide machines free of cost for viral load of high risk cases at district hospitals in Bathinda, Sangrur, Tarn Taran districts.

So far, 39,286 patients of Hepatitis C have been enrolled for treatment even as the cure rate is more than 91 per cent.

Seeing the success of the scheme in Punjab, the Government of India has announced National Programme for Hepatitis across the country. Experts from PGI and department of Health, Government of Punjab are members in the drafting of the National Programme. Several international experts from World Health Organisation, GiLead, FIND etc have visited the state to study the success story of the scheme.

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