The queue in front of the Oncology Department at General Hospital is long and winding. The palliative care unit that houses terminally-ill cancer patients is full. Many patients who have lost both hope and money look upon the hospital as their last resort. Unfortunately, Kerala’s first radiotherapy unit in the General Hospital runs with a technology that dates back to 25 years.
To treat cancer, there are three modes - surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. While the hospital offers the best chemotherapy treatment in the state, it fumbles with the radiation therapy.
“While the most-modern linear accelerator therapy was introduced in medical field around 15 years ago, the hospital still runs the show with age-old cobalt therapy,” says Dr Vinod Kumar, Radiation Oncologist.
“We started off with Radium, then came Cesium and then Cobalt. Unfortunately, we are stuck in Cobalt whereas electron linear accelerators constitute the core of the equipment of a modern radiation therapy,” he added.
According to sources, the major disadvantage of cobalt therapy is that it is not precise. “Owing to lack of precision, chances stand high that it can destroy cells which are not diseased,” they said.
The situation could have been different if the government showed some will at a time when the hospital is doing everything to provide maximum benefits for patients.
Besides, the Oncology Department has only four doctors. Of them, one is retired and the other is on contract. There are only two PSC-qualified doctors.
Though the Regional Cancer Centre is an acclaimed name in cancer treatment, doctors say the Ernakulam General Hospital is the best when it comes to palliative care for terminally-ill patients,says Dr Mohan G, Medical Officer, Department of Palliative Care.
“We are with them till the end of their lives. When RCC takes care of patients who are diagnosed early and can be cured, we attend to the medical needs of patients till their death. Three teams from the palliative care unit tour across the district offering services which you cannot get in RCC. With limited facilities, we are doing our level best and if we get modern facilities, the benefits will be manifold,” he said.
“When the cancer centre becomes a reality, Ernakulam General Hospital should be made an auxiliary institution to reap out the maximum benefits. But that takes time, hence measures should be taken to update the services of the hospital,” they added.