Tata Trusts-aided Assam Cancer Care Foundation inaugurated

The Tata Trusts and the Assam government today introduced a joint initiative to establish a comprehensive cancer care network in the state, comprising 19 modern cancer care facilities across the state. The Government of Assam and the Trusts have set up the Assam Cancer Care Foundation, towards this initiative.

Of the 19 facilities, 12 will be comprehensive cancer care centres on the premises of government medical colleges in the state. Located at Barpeta, Dhubri, Diphu, Jorhat, Karimganj, Kokrajhar, Lakhimpur, Nagaon, Nalbari, Silchar, Tezpur, and Tinsukia, they will offer diagnosis and treatment of cancer cases. 
Another five will be adjacent to district hospitals in Darrang, Goalpara, Golaghat, Haflong, and Sivasagar, and will offer diagnostic and day-care services, including chemotherapy. 
The Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh, will be upgraded to an apex cancer centre with education and public health research capabilities. The State Cancer Institute (SCI) in Guwahati will be expanded to a 500-bed South Asia Research Centre. 
This network will become operational beginning April 2019. It is designed to ensure that patients do not have to travel more than a few hours to access the full suite of cancer treatment within the public system so that care remains affordable. The facilities have been designed to maximise patient comfort as prolonged periods of stay in the hospital may become necessary. 
A Digital Nerve Centre (DiNC) set up at State Cancer Institute, will enable a virtual unification of cancer-care facilities across the state. It will help guide patients from the community to the apex level so that appropriate referral mechanisms and appointment systems are followed. It will also provide tele-health and virtual tumour board services at all network facilities so that any apex facility nationally can be consulted easily. This will eventually lead to a better patient experience by ensuring that patients and caregivers do not spend time at hospitals because of lack of information regarding the treatment process. 
Government of India-designed awareness, screening, early detection, and palliative care programmes will be implemented through the Assam Cancer Care Foundation. This will be critical in ensuring that patients come forward for treatment at the first sign of symptoms. It is envisaged that after the network becomes operational and the programmes are fully implemented the shift from late stage to early stage detection will be evident within a three-year period.  
State health minister  Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said that cancer will be made a notifiable disease starting September 2018 in the state so that all patients are able to access care through the public healthcare network on the backbone of the DiNC. Once cancer is made a notifiable disease all practitioners will have to report any cancer case detected to the Health & Family Welfare Department of the State by filling basic information regarding the patient online.
Speaking on the occasion, chief minister Sarbanada Sonowal said, “I offer my sincere gratitude to Mr. Ratan Tata on behalf of the people of Assam for his great and philanthropist initiative for the state and the entire north-eastern region. This initiative will benefit the people across this region, especially those who are marginalised.”
Inaugurating the facility along with Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal,   Ratan N Tata said, “Cancer care in India is hindered by the lack of facilities, late diagnosis, and high cost of treatment. The Tata Trusts have resolved to tackle this by supporting the establishment of infrastructure across the country for high quality affordable care, and nation-wide screening and early detection programmes. Together with partners if we can achieve this, India will be able to dramatically increase survival rates, as in the developed countries. I am happy that we are able to join hands with the Government of Assam to achieve this transformation in the state and the region.”
Tata Trusts are currently in talks with other state governments, like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Telangana, for establishing similar networks. Over the next three years, about 100 such centres are expected to be added.