Health Minister's order fails to improve services at cancer hospital

Published On: February 28, 2017 12:00 AM NPT By: Ramesh Kumar Paudel

According to the hospital, at least 80 patients come to the department of radio therapy daily for service. If all equipments are not operational, patients are deprived of services.

CHITWAN, Feb 28: Health Minister Gagan Thapa had directed BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital's administration to improve its service within a month. While a month's deadline is nearing end, patients report that they have felt no change at all in the hospital's service delivery. With its 'capacity enhancement project' in limbo for long, the hospital's performance which was awaiting improvement, has failed to satisfy service seekers. 

“I have come here regularly for my mother's treatment. She has taken radio therapy 23 times. Twenty times she did it from here, but three times I had to take her to Kathmandu,” said Damodar Sapkota. “The machines here are not reliable. Or else, I would not have to take a cancer patient elsewhere from a cancer hospital for such therapy,” he added.

His mother Amrita, 68, suffers from uterine cancer. A local of Dhandagi - 3, she has been visiting this hospital for a year now. For such patients, radiation technology is used as treatment. An essential radio therapy machine is out of operation for long in this hospital dedicated to treat cancer patients.

Since the hospital has not fixed the machine, patients are recommended elsewhere for a special type of therapy. “They call it Brachytherapy. In this radiation is used for treatment. But since the equipment is out of use for long, I had to take my mother to Kathmandu,” Damodar said. 

Dr Chin Bahadur Pun, acting director of the hospital, admitted that the machine, which went out of use long back, has not been repaired yet. “The machine has not come into operation, yet. Though we have tried to bring several things on track since few months, everything is not fixed yet,” Pun said. “It may take little more time to give satisfactory services,” he added.

Another major equipment in the department of Radio therapy is awaiting repairs. Pun stated that several types of external beam radiation therapy are delivered using 'linear accelerator' machine, and this machine has also gone out of use in the hospital. “In lack of LINAC accelerator, our patients are suffering. Service has been badly affected,” he said. 

According to the hospital, at least 80 patients come to the department of radio therapy daily for service. If all equipments are not operational, patients are deprived of services. Patients state that their treatment is seriously affected if even a minor treatment tool in the hospital is not working. Having to go elsewhere for service is full of hassle, they lament. 

“We hope that LINAC would be operational pretty soon. We are working in full swing to fix other equipments into operation,” Dr Pun said. “We are very serious about the issue. Things would be fixed soon,” he said. 

Private service banned but ineffective  
Following massive reports that doctors in the hospitals were found to be serving through private clinics rather than from the hospital, the hospital management committee had last month put a ban on such practice. It was announced that the doctors associated with the hospital should devote their services to the hospital only. However, the decision has not been effective. 

“The decision was well circulated and doctors were warned from working outside the hospital. However, it has not been effective,” said Dr Pun. “This practice is not prevalent here only. A doctor working in private clinics rather than in hospital is widespread and this obviously affects hospital service,” he said. Doctors working at the hospital are commonly seen running their own clinics around the Chaubiskothi area in Bharatpur. 

In fact, the hospital management had planned to operate expanded health services (EHS) and engage all the hospital doctors and technicians more effectively. A study team, formed to assess resources for operating the services, has not yet submitted its report. “We had formed a taskforce for launching the service. The team was expected to submit its report in the beginning of the month of Fagun. This is yet to come through,” he said.  

The 16-year-old hospital currently has a total of 579 staffs including 52 specialists, 20 medical officers. 

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