Central and state governments are planning to set up 49 cancer centres in 3 years, all across the country. These will be added to the already functioning 39 cancer centres. These will be formed under two branches: state cancer institutes and tertiary care cancer centres. Cancer Centres are cancer care hospitals and research institutes operating in India under the joint funding of the government of India and the respective state governments. Each of these institutions cater to a designated region, usually a particular number of districts. The existing centres were upgraded last in 2014-15.
With a budget of Rs 3,495 crore, the health ministry is drawing out a plan to set up these centres in 3 years time. The government is also going to equip these centres with high end and advanced machinery to detect and treat cancer. This project will also include upgrading of district hospitals and health centres in rural areas. There have been plenty said about the poor state of government hospitals.
India does not have a strong infrastructure for cancer treatment or diagnosis. According to WHO figures, there are only 600 radiotherapy machines in the country against a requirement of about 1,200 machines. The Times Of India reported that under this new scheme, there will be an increase of around 175 radiotherapy machines in India by the end of 2020. The proposal also aims to make more facilities available for oncology, onco-surgery, chemotherapy and palliative care for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of cancer.
Cancer is one of the fastest spreading diseases in the country and we are not prepared to treat it. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) report predicts that India is likely to have over 17.3 lakh new cases of cancer and over 8.8 lakh deaths due to the disease by 2020. Due to late diagnosis and substandard treatment, lakhs of deaths occur in the country annually, and it is only increasing.
Apart from government aid, there is corporate aid coming through the CSR activities of many corporates. State Bank of India regularly sets up cancer camps for diagnosis and awareness among people, even through the use of their social media. Coal India Limited, ONGC Foundation and Cadilla Pharmaceuticals are among the many others who direct their CSR funding towards the cause of cancer patients. Organisations like Cancer Aid and Research Foundation help corporates direct their CSR funds to cancer patients for assistance in treatment and care.
Even though the CSR projects are very ambitious, their reach still is limited. 17% of the CSR budget is spent on health care, but the funds only touch upon a few states. The strengthening of the government health care system for treatment of cancer is imperative. The reason for that is the pace with which cancer is spreading. This new scheme is a step in the right direction if it is seen through till its implementation. India needs to be ready with updated equipment and strong government health institutions if it aims to fight this prospective epidemic.
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The CSR Journal Team