Cancer hospital lacks treatment capacity

Many patients return home without treatment every day

Mahabub Alam

12 September, 2018 12:00 AM printer

Many cancer patients requiring urgent operations have to return home without treatment from the country’s lone specialised hospital for treating the deadly disease every day due to inadequate facilities there.

The government-run health facility -- National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) – at Mohakhali in the capital has 300 beds.

NICRH director Dr Md Moarraf Hossen said the number of patients seeking admission for operations is huge compared to the number of beds and other facilities at the hospital.

He said cancer treatment is very time-consuming. “Once a cancer affected patient is admitted to the hospital, s/he needs at least a month to get release. It’s not possible to admit a new patient if there is no vacant bed.”

NICRH was built in 1989, when it had only outdoor facilities. After three years, 50 beds were added to the hospital for the treatment of indoor patients.

Later in 2009, 100 more beds were added. With the addition of another 150 beds in 2014, it is now a 300-bed hospital.

NICRH officials said the hospital is still struggling to cope with the rising number of patients requiring admission.

Failing to get admitted to NICRH, many poor patients suffer badly as a limited number of government hospitals provide cancer treatment in the country.

Many patients even fall victims to the traps of private hospitals set up around NICRH.

Affected with cancer, Jaida Begum from Gazipur came to NICRH a week before the Eid-ul-Azha. After tests, doctors advised her to undergo an urgent surgery suggesting otherwise her condition will deteriorate.

The physicians, however, could not admit her to the NICRH as no beds were vacant.

The duty doctors told her that they would inform her over phone after one and a half months if any seat gets vacant.

“We don’t have enough money to take my mother to a private hospital,” he said.

However, several hundred patients, who visit the hospital for radiotherapy- a part of cancer treatment to control or kill malignant cells, have to go back without the therapy.

No fewer than 800-1,000 patients seek appointments for radiotherapy at the hospital every day, but it can so far provide therapy to half of them by its six machines.

Besides NICRH, 15 government and private hospitals across the country have logistics for cancer treatment.

One of them is Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Outside the capital, the government hospitals in Rajshahi, Bogra, Barisal, Mymensingh, Rangpur, Sylhet and Chittagong can provide radiotherapy.

Each of them has one or two machines to give the therapy.

Many of the machines have remained out of function, sources said.

This is one of the reasons why so many patients flock to NICRH.

Health Minister Mohammad Nasim and Secretary (Health Service) Sirajul Haque Khan could not be contacted despite several attempts for their  comments on the issue.