Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who left for treatment to a US hospital from Mumbai, is reportedly suffering from an advanced stage of pancreatic cancer. Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital and Goa Medical College and Hospital — are both the health facilities in which he was frequently admitted and discharged. There were many speculations, but finally it was quite an advanced stage of cancer and he went abroad in hope of buying some time. Parrikar had complained of stomach pains on February 14 and was rushed to the Goa Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) and later flown to Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai the following day, which was then attributed to “food-poisoning”. Soon after he was admitted to the Mumbai hospital, the Goa Chief Minister’s office steadfastly maintained that Parrikar was suffering from “mild pancreatitis”.
I am amazed to see that the BJP state cadre has been organising “Mahamrutyunjaya Japs” (death defying-chants) functions and prayer services in Goa’s temples and churches, respectively, for the last couple of weeks, which may indicate the severity of the affliction suffered by Parrikar. I remember, when Sonia Gandhi went abroad for undergoing treatment, same BJP had attacked her for not trusting Indian doctors and hospitals. Going abroad for a surgery or medical treatment in case of a chronic or rare medical condition shows that our country is not prepared to deal with such ailments! While BJP government is talking about development and Make In India, they have miserably failed on medical sector!
It’s a common perception that foreign countries have better technology or efficient doctors or care; have you heard of brain drain? You would find many of best practices abroad have Indian origin doctors. Also, although India has best of care system (considering our culture, we are raised in a way where we care for one another so much more) and that’s the reason most of home healthcare or nursing set ups abroad have Indian origin nurses. Indian hospitals and medical assistance are equally good in India.
But unfortunately, these ministers and celebrities are used to five-star hospitality. Regrettably, these stars require five star luxurious setups apart from the medical treatment. We do have such setups in India too, but it is perceived that the standards of hospitality are better there. Doctors say India is on par with international cancer hospitals. In that case, why do people tend to go abroad for treatments? Indian government seriously needs to think about it.
If you remember, Cricketer Yuvraj Singh was also in US where he underwent treatment for cancer. His mother was quoted saying that doctors in India gave him wrong diagnoses. Raj Kapoor’s daughter Ritu Nanda has been undergoing treatment for cancer in the US for the last three months. Sonia Gandhi has been going abroad for treatment. There are hushed whispers that she has the dreaded disease.
These instances ring alarm bells — why are people high on going abroad for cancer treatments? Is our country inept to deal with the ’emperor of maladies’? Do we lack good doctors, or are we falling short of equipment and medicines?
We delved into the situation and found that all the above queries have a negative answer. One of the topmost cancer surgeons in the world today, Dr Rajendra Badwe, the Director of the Tata Memorial Research Centre, proclaims that they offer the same treatment as any other part of the world. Everything that can be done in the best cancer centers across the globe can be done here. Dr Ashish Bakshi, Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist with the L H Hiranandani Hospital reiterates that cancer treatment in our country is equivalent and in some cases even better than anywhere else abroad. Devika Bhojwani, Vice President of the Women’s Cancer Initiative believes that it is a myth that we get better cancer treatment abroad. When it comes to treating cancer, we are one of the best in the world today. India has the finest surgeons here and right from the hospitals, to the treatment and surgery techniques, equipment used, and post-treatment care as well as cost, we are among the finest.
Director Anurag Basu, who had been diagnosed with acute leukemia in 2004 was given a two-month ultimatum. He battled cancer here in our country and says that it is not that India is less any way when it comes to cancer treatment. The ace director states that as a cancer survivor, he has attended many conferences and seminars abroad and has always heard foreign doctors speak very highly of the kind of work being done in India when it comes to cancer. The cost of treating cancer abroad can be around ten times more and in dollars, so that effectively makes it 500 times more. For example, even for a simple consultation abroad the deposit is $10,000 (approx Rs 5,11,100). In spite of knowing the truth, people go abroad and the reason is that they don’t want people to know that they are suffering from cancer. Secondly, they don’t trust Indian doctors because in many of the cases wrong diagnoses were evident. Considering the fact that it is extremely expensive to treat cancer abroad, maybe the ministers are the only ones who can really afford it.
Here in India the doctor-to-patient ratio is skewed. We have 450,000 follow-up patients every year and our annual registration of new patients is 50,000 with a permanent staff (upper limit) of 150 doctors, whereas abroad there are around 30,000 annual registrations of new patients with 700 doctors. Bollywood music director Aadesh Shrivastava who had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma in October 2010 had two options; either seek treatment in London or here in the country. But Shrivastava chose the latter and soon he died too. Another bonus point in seeking treatment abroad is that, because of the pleasant weather and less pollution, the rate of recovery is faster. There are many factors that motivate wealthy people to go abroad for treatment and add handsome money to their economy. After Parrikar’s decision to go abroad, it must have definitely discouraged Indian cancer patients.
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