Friday, Jul 15, 2005
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THALASSERY: Even as the Malabar Cancer Centre (MCC) at Kodiyeri here is now in the limelight in the context of the controversy over the Kerala State Electricity Board's (KSEB) multi-crore deal with Canadian company SNC Lavalin during the term of the previous Left Democratic Front Government, it is struggling hard to reconcile what it was originally supposed to be with what it is today.
Although this cancer treatment centre will remain as a testimony to the miscarriage of the assurance about Canadian aid for its development, which formed part of the agreement between KSEB and SNC Lavalin, it is hard-pressed to survive as an institution that will cater to cancer patients in the Malabar region. While the centre has a long way to go before it establishes itself as a cancer treatment facility, the sanctioning of the project for radiotherapy and treatment planning system with Central assistance under the National Cancer Control Programme is seen as some flickering of light at the end of the tunnel.
The sophisticated Rs.2.25-crore radiotherapy and treatment planning system will soon be installed at the MCC. While the Central Government allocated Rs.1.5 crores, the Power Finance Corporation sanctioned a donation of Rs.50 lakhs. Local bodies in the district have pooled Rs.3.5 lakhs for the development of the hospital.
The proposal for constructing a 150-bedded dormitory facility for patients and their bystanders is also being pursued seriously by the hospital management. The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs.1.3 crores. Efforts are on to get the MLAs' and MPs' local area development fund for starting the first phase of the work on the dormitory.
The MCC, located on a 26-acre land, has been envisaged as a relief to cancer patients from the Malabar region as nearly 30 per cent of patents reaching the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram are believed to be from the region. Around 7,000 new cancer cases and 70,000 patient visits were expected at the centre. Patient visits in the hospital now are nearly half of what was expected.
"Although there has been a gradual increase in the rate of patient visits since the clinical operation was started in 2001, the centre is yet to experience an inflow of patients," says MCC Director M. Iqbal Ahamed. The upcoming installation of the radiotherapy unit will remove a major handicap of this cancer care hospital, he says adding that a brachy therapy machine that costs Rs.1 crore and a radiotherapy simulator to assess the precision of radiotherapy treatment are other facilities urgently required by the MCC to start with.
The MCC is managed by the Malabar Cancer Centre Society with the Chief Minister as its governing body chairman, the Electricity and Health Ministers as vice-chairmen and the Power Secretary as chairman of the eight-member executive committee.
The MCC, as its original project envisages, is conceived as a 276-bedded hospital with separate departments for radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgical oncology and palliative care. The Rs.103-crore project was projected as part of the KSEB-SNC Lavalin deal under which the Canadian company agrees to arrange Canadian aid to the tune of Rs.98 crores from various agencies including the Canadian International Development Agency. The Canadian contribution so far is nearly Rs.8 crores. The State Government's share to the project, under the agreement, is Rs.5 crores for providing land, power, water supply and roads.
The agreement between the Canadian company was scrapped after the present UDF Government came to power. The whole deal has now become a potential scandal following the finding by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that the deal turned out to be a drain on the exchequer.
A major problem affecting the functioning of the hospital, according to MCC sources, is its negative image thanks to its linkage with the current controversy. The MCC has no pathologist and radiologist. Though the MCC advertised for a pathologist and radiologist there was no response, the sources say adding that doctors are not seeing any future for the institution in its present state.
Dr. Iqbal, however, says that Electricity Minister Aryadan Mohammed is keen on the development of the MCC. Apart from the state-of-the-art equipment required, the lack of accommodation facilities in the area would affect the MCC which was envisaged as a residency-type institution, he says.
As it stands today, the MCC, which was expected to be completed in three years after the project work was started, is still in a state of infancy.
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