Punjab has seen an increase in the number of cancer patients in recent years, especially in the southwest Malwa region, due to excessive use of pesticides and insecticides in farming.
Punjab has over 90 cancer patients per 1 lakh population. This is much higher than the national average of 80 per lakh. The Malwa region, also known as the ‘cancer belt’, has the highest average of 136 cancer patients per 1lakh of population. This startling statistic was released by the Punjab government. The records show that there are 23,874 cancer patients in the state and 33,318 people have died of the dreaded disease during the last five years. The Muktsar and Malwa region recorded an astounding 136.3 patients for every lakh. These figures were revealed after the state health department undertook a comprehensive door-to-door campaign to know the state-o- affairs in Punjab.
The cancer patients seeking treatment under the MukhMantri Punjab Cancer RahatKosh Scheme (MMPCRKS) will be entitled for cashless treatment in all 16 hospitals in the state empanelled under the scheme. Under the new scheme, there would be no need for getting prior sanction of officers for availing treatment for cancer. Cancer patients could avail the best treatment facilities in the empanelled hospitals at affordable cost.
Badal said the scheme would prove to be a big help for cancer patients as under it the entire expenditure would be borne by the state government.
Vini Mahajan, Principal Secretary of Health said, “The government would sign a fresh memorandum of understanding (MoU) with all the empanelled hospitals in a couple of days. “We received feedback from patients and news reports that the cancer patients seeking treatment under the MMPCRKS were being forced to pay very high amounts. As per the new MoU, they would be entitled to cashless treatment.”
He said that though the government wouldn’t pay more than Rs. 1.5 lakh in any case, on the basis of all calculations the government and all the empanelled hospitals had reached the understanding that even if a cancer patient gets all three treatments, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgical treatment, the cost couldn’t go beyond Rs. 1.5 lakh.
As per the new MoU, now the private hospitals will be paid under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) rates. Earlier, they were being paid under the rates of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, which were much lower.
The cancer relief scheme was started in June 2011 for patients who don’t have an insurance cover or are not government employees. The government extends financial help up to a maximum of Rs. 1.5 lakh each for cancer treatment at all empanelled hospitals.
Several initiatives to reform the entire scheme were ordered by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. However, some of them are still to be implemented.
The scheme is supposed to reimburse patients as per rates of treatment in PGI, Chandigarh. Chemotherapy in a private hospital costs Rs. 2,000 – 25,000 and Rs. 500 in PGI. Thus,only Rs. 500 will be deducted from a patient’s bill in a private hospital and the rest has to be paid by the patient.