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Manipur: Cancer patients left in lurch as radiotherapy dept closed due to COVID-19

Written by Jimmy Leivon
| Imphal |

Updated: July 3, 2020 11:54:11 am


A senior Oncologist of RIMS, under the condition of anonymity, said that the telecobalt machine at RIMS is the only operational radiation machine in the entire state. (File Photo)

Cancer patients in Manipur who are in dire need of radiation therapy are allegedly deprived of the treatment as the radiotherapy department of the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) has been closed to the public and converted into a Covid care facility.

The disruption of the radiation treatment is taking a heavy toll on the health of the cancer patients, particularly those who are required to undergo active treatment.

“I underwent a major operation on March 21 and the doctor had advised me to go for radiotherapy six days after the operation. It has been over two months now but I have not received the radiation therapy,” said N Bira Singh from Imphal West district.

The 54-years-old cancer patient said that he has been on a liquid diet for the last three months as he cannot swallow solid food.

With lack of proper food for months coupled with the delay in radiation therapy, Singh said, “I am becoming weak each passing day. I can feel the deteriorating condition of my health. I wanted to live a little longer but if the current situation persists I might not live long”.

A senior Oncologist of RIMS, under the condition of anonymity, said that the telecobalt machine at RIMS is the only operational radiation machine in the entire state. Even in normal days, before COVID-19 pandemic, the lone machine cannot cater to all the cancer patients.

The Oncologist pointed out that the maximum number of radiation treatments the lone machine can provide is around 80 patients per day against the requirement of about 150 patients. “As the lone machine cannot cater to all, sometimes patients have to wait over a month for the radiation treatment. The prevailing situation can prove life threatening for some severe cases,” said the Oncologist.

N Usharani, a 52-year-old patient from Bishnupur district, said that it has been over a month since her radiation therapy stopped. “I have to spend 1500 for hiring a vehicle and travel to Imphal since public transportations has been suspended due to the lockdown. Moreover, I have to travel twice a week just to enquire about the resumption of my treatment. Some of us have tried to contact the authority of the hospital but we are unable to get any answers. We are in a very desperate situation,” said Usharani.

The aggrieved cancer patients are upset over converting the radiotherapy department to a Covid care facility. “Are cancer patients not human,” questioned H. Asharani, another patient from Khurai, Imphal East district.

Dr. A Shanta, Director RIMS, clarified that the radiotherapy department was converted into Covid care facility following an order issued by the state just recently after the spike in COVID-19 positive cases was reported.

The authority chose the radiology department after careful assessment keeping in mind that it is situated in a less crowded part of the hospital away from the general categories, he said.

The RIMS director further clarified that the radiation machine was out of order just before the lockdown began which had delayed the treatment of some. He said that the problem has been sorted out and treatment will soon begin.

“We must understand that we are in a very peculiar situation, a time when the entire world is facing a crisis of epic proportion. We are also doing our best to address all the grievances,” said the RIMS director.

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