Flood devastated equipment at Radiation Oncology Department in SMHS hospital here is yet to be repaired or replaced, making the facility of Radio-therapy unavailable at the hospital.
In 2014, the Radiation Oncology Department of SMHS Hospital had registered 997 cancer patients and provided 9968 radiotherapy doses. Then floods of September 2014, which destroyed the equipment and infrastructure of most tertiary care hospitals in Srinagar, devastated all radiotherapy equipment at this centre.
Over two years have passed since Kashmir witnessed worst flood of the century, but till date no attempt has been made to resume the Radio-Therapy that had begun to come up as a viable option for cancer patients.
The cancer patients are left with no choice but to pin their hopes on the overburdened Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) of SK Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Soura.
Although, funding for replacement of flood damaged equipment was taken care off through the Prime Ministers Relief Fund of Rs. 130 crore that the state received for restoration of healthcare infrastructure, the reasons for delay is still a mystery.
Senior administrators in GMC said that although the PMRF funds of Rs 175 crore had been announced by PM Modi in October 2014, 'the third and last quarter funds of 2014-15 were not released'. He added, "The first quarter installment of 2015-16 funds was delayed and when we received it, we had to clear liabilities of the last financial year."
Blaming the delay in equipment procurement on funding delay, the senior administrator said that such delays have a 'direct bearing' on the availability of services at the hospital.
The Radiation Oncology department of SMHS Hospital established in 2011, which had provisions and plans for expansion to other oncology services, has now been rendered to a resource constrained day-care chemotherapy ward.
Head Radiation Oncology, Dr Sanuallah Kuchay steered clear on commenting over the issue of funding and blamed the situation in Kashmir for the past four months for the delay. He said the department was working 'night and day' on the restoration of all radiotherapy facilities to 'restore' a facility that had become 'a viable and preferred option' for cancer patients.
Officials in SMHS Hospital said that the tender documents for Cobalt Unit had been opened and a Canadian company had already been finalized for supply of this equipment. Dr Kuchay however said that there would be a 'delay of four months' in making the service available at the hospital. "We will have it ready for use by February 2017," Dr Kuchay said.
Regarding the Brachytherapy he again put his deadline of installation at February 2017. "We have received Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) approval for Brachytherapy but it is an add-on to Cobalt therapy. So we will use it once Cobalt Unit is ready," he said.
However, for TrueBeam Linear Accelerator, sources said, more time would be required as the process of getting the equipment ready for safe use was a long one.
The department claimed that CT Simulator had been installed and ready to use but lying almost defunct due to other radiotherapy facilities being unavailable at the center.
The Oncology Wing SMHS Hospital had Equinox 80 and HDR Brachytherapy Unit, C T Simulator and Computerized Treatment Planning System. It had 40 beds ward service, OPD Services Daycare chemotherapy and many supportive services.