Bir to buy high-end radiotherapy machine for US$4.1m

Published On: July 4, 2017 06:00 AM NPT By: Bishnu Prasad Aryal

Amount enough for machines for three hospitals 
KATHMANDU, July 4: Bir Hospital, the oldest and biggest government hospital in the country, is again planning to buy a radiotherapy machine at a cost of US$ 4.1 million, an amount that is enough to purchase three such machines.

Three months ago also, Bir Hospital tried to procure a radiotherapy machine worth Rs 60 million at a cost of Rs 118 million . The bidding process was annulled after a news report about this was published in Republica and Nagarik  dailies. 

The latest bidding process will be the fourth for the radiotherapy machine in two years. Bir Hospital, which is under the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS), has now called tender bids fo a US-made high-end  radiotherapy machine which costs US$ 4.1 million (approximately Rs 410 million). For this amount at least three (Cobalt-60) radio therapy machines  or at least two other Limac  machines can be purchased.

The tender bid has specified a Tomo Therapy machine, and this has discouraged other companies from applying for the tender. The TomoTherapy machine is  manufactured specifically by Accuray Inc., USA and is a type of  Linac machine.

 Dr Ganesh Man Gurung, vice-chancellor of NAMS, admitted that the equipment being procured was definitely expensive. “It is high-end and latest third-generation technology,” he said. “The winner of the bid will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday),” he added. “We have to buy the equipment at the soonest to facilitate cancer treatment.”

It is reported that the same machine was sold to India for US$ 2.2 million. “We believe in the specifications and cost presented by the vendors,” said VC Gurung adding, “The cost of the machine alone is US$ 2.2 million. But our cost includes free servicing for eight years, accessories, software and additional hardware belonging to the equipment.”

Doctors at the Department of Oncology at Bir  said that the high-end machine was not the need at present. “We can buy three Cobalt-60 machines worth about Rs 120 million each and provide them to three hospitals in the country. Nepalgunj Cancer Hospital does not have this machine,” said the doctors, requesting anonymity. The intentions of the administration in buying this expensive machine may be related to hefty commissions. they said.

The Ministry of Health has provided Rs 400 million to Bir Hospital to buy the radiotherapy machine, according to  NAMS. Generally, a radiotherapy machine can provide services to some 15 patients daily.

The hospital administration expressed serious concern over the objection of doctors to procurement of the machine. Bir has failed to provide radiotherapy to cancer patients since two years. “Some doctors at Bir work at private hospitals also. They want to defame the government hospital and  promote the private hospitals,” said the administrative officials at  Bir.

The Cobalt-60 at Bir stopped working two years ago. Since then, patients have been forced to go to other hospitals where the costs are much higher.

Bir used to provide radiotherapy at a cost of Rs 5,000 while Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital  provides the same service at Rs 25,000. Private hospitals charge Rs 75,000 to 125,000.

The service with the  proposed new machine will cost around Rs 30,000 to 40,000 per radiotherapy treatment, according to the doctors. However,  VC Gurung said, “We will provide the service at about Rs 10,000.” The new machine will be operational after three months, he added.

Before the  Cobalt machine broke down, 70 to 80 patients used to come to Bir Hospital every day for cancer checkups and treatment. These days, only 30 to 40 patients come, according to the doctors.  

Bir Hospital detects some 1,300 new cancer cases every year. The number of new patients at Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital is over 1,500 while Bharatpur Cancer Hospital records more than 6,000 new cases a year.

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