Ratan Tata to lay foundation stone for 19 cancer care centres in Assam

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The Assam government and Tata Trusts collaborate for a JV under which a three-tier cancer care grid will be established in the state.

New Delhi: BJP president Amit Shah and industrialist Ratan Tata will attend the foundation laying ceremony on 18 June in Guwahati for 19 cancer specialty centres to be opened across Assam. The move has the potential to drastically improve cancer care in the state and the entire region.

Highly placed sources in the government of Assam confirmed that chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal is also expected to be present during the ceremony.

Shah’s presence is of political significance given Assam is a crucial state for the BJP and has been a key central point of its entire Northeast expansion plan.

A 50-50 collaboration

The Assam government and Tata Trusts have collaborated for a joint-venture called Assam Cancer Care Foundation (ACCF), under which a three-tier cancer care grid will be established with a corpus of Rs 2,200 crore to be shared on an equal basis by both parties.

The board will comprise a chairman and six members. While the chairman will be the health minister of the state, there will be three representatives of the Assam government and three of the Tata Trust as members.

Under the tiered structure, there will be three levels. L1 – state level cancer-care institute in Guwahati; L2 – state medical college and L3 – district hospitals. L1 will provide advance and tertiary care facilities, L2 will have chemotherapy, radiation and surgical oncology facilities and L3 district hospitals will have daycare, chemotherapy and radiation facilities.

“There will be one L1 centre in Guwahati and nine L2 centres in state medical colleges. We have six state medical colleges so far and three more are coming up. The L3 centres will be across eight districts,” Samir Kumar Sinha, principal secretary, health and family welfare in the Assam government told ThePrint.

“There is also a cancer research institute that will be set up in Guwahati. This makes it a total of 19 centres. However, right now work will begin only on 18 L1, L2 and L3 centres and the research institute will be taken up later,” Sinha said.

The need for cancer facilities in Assam

The Assam government says the need for so many cancer hospitals in the state was felt due to three main reasons — high incidence of cancer in the state, lack of such facilities in the region and to enable early detection and prevention. The government says over 90,000 cancer cases were detected in the state in the previous five years.

“The L3 and also L2 centres will also facilitate outreach to enable cancer prevention, and most importantly, early detection. This is not something we really have now,” Sinha said.

In fact, given that Assam caters to the medical treatment needs of the entire region due to logistical difficulties in setting up big centres in other Northeastern states, it’s imperative to have an adequate number of cancer care centres in the state.

Last year, a report by the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research under the Indian Council of Medical Research said lifestyle-related cancers top the chart in Northeast, with the region anyway showing an overall high incidence of cancer in India. It said the main cause of cancer in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura is the excessive tobacco consumption.

The report also found that the possibility of cancer can be as high as 20 per cent in the region. But given the lack of adequate cancer facilities, most cancer patients have to travel outside the northeast for treatment.

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