“Dear sisters and brothers,
I arrived in Assam earlier this morning on the first leg of my eight-day tour to the North-eastern States as part of my ‘knowledge pilgrimage’.
Soon after assuming the office of the Vice President of India, I decided to visit various scientific institutions and research labs; universities and educational institutions, including IITs, IIITs and agricultural institutes; interact with youth, farmers, women’s associations, members of various industry bodies, NGOs and other important organizations.
Apart from seeking to acquaint me with the research being carried out by various scientific institutions, the aim of my visits is to understand the problems of scientists, students, farmers and others and to motivate them to excel in their respective domains by making optimal use of the available resources.
Dear sisters and brothers,
We are slowly but steadily recovering from the devastating impact of a once-in-a-hundred years pandemic, which shook the entire world. It has taught us some important lessons—the foremost among them is to maintain good health and develop immunity. Leading a disciplined lifestyle by undertaking regular physical activity like practicing yoga, cycling, jogging or swimming; avoiding unhealthy diet like junk food and substances that are harmful to one’s health are important and play a critical role in the overall well-being of a person. In fact, they are important in preventing the growing incidence of various non-communicable diseases, including cancer.
In India, as per the Indian Council of Medical Research report, there were 14 lakh new cancer cases in 2020 and this number is estimated to rise to 16 lakh by 2025. I am told that the North-Eastern region of India has a huge burden of cancer with Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh reporting the highest incidence of the disease in India. Assam also has a high burden of cancer with around 52,000 new cases reported in 2020.
In view of the growing burden of cancer in Assam, I am told that the Government of Assam in partnership with Tata Trusts is implementing a step-down cancer care model called the Distributed Cancer Care Model.
The aim is to create patient-centric cancer institutions to deliver standardized and affordable care closer to the patients’ homes. Instead of a single apex hospital handling a cancer patient’s treatment, I am told that it is proposed to have smaller centres close to the patient’s home. These centres, linked with the apex hospital, will handle diagnosis and care delivery, thereby shifting the load away from apex hospitals. Thus, they will provide high-quality cancer care closer to home and reduce out-of-pocket expenses for cancer patients.
I am informed that under this Distributed Cancer Care Model, it is planned to have one Apex Referral Centre called L1, Comprehensive Cancer Hospitals attached to Government Medical Colleges called L2s and Diagnostic and Day Care Centres with Radiation adjacent to District hospitals called L3s.
Accordingly, in the first phase of this Assam Cancer Care Program, an Apex Centre L1 is being developed here in the State Cancer Institute Guwahati, L2s are being set up in Dibrugarh, Barpeta, Silchar and Diphu and L3 Centres are being set up in Kokrajhar, Lakhimpur, Tezpur, Jorhat and Mangaldai.
I am also informed that infrastructure development is being supplemented with a strategy to develop sufficient trained human resources and a unified technology platform to ensure the delivery of a high-quality care in a wholly patient-centric manner.
I am told that the State Cancer Institute is being upgraded with some of the most advanced equipment for cancer care such as Tomo-Therapy, Linear Accelerator and MRI Guided Linear Accelerator. I have been informed that the Tomo-therapy and Linear Accelerator machines have been commissioned and an additional 100 patients are receiving radiation treatment.
I am also told that the PET-MRI machine which I inaugurated here today, is only the 4th such machine in India and the first in the country, which is based on Time-of-Flight technology. It will not only greatly help in more accurate diagnosis, but will also reduce patients’ exposure to radiation.
I would advise other States also to emulate the Distributed Cancer Care Model for providing timely and effective treatment to cancer patients. The private sector needs to come forward and partner with the State governments to provide modern cancer treatment facilities in the rural areas. Palliative care is a crucial area that requires greater attention of the governments and health professionals. Palliative care is basically supportive care and seeks to improve the quality of life of patients.
According to the World Health Organization, palliative care is explicitly recognized under the human right to health. It should be provided through person-centered and integrated health services that pay special attention to the specific needs and preferences of individuals, says WHO.
Palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and that of their families who are facing challenges associated with life-threatening illnesses, whether physical, psychological, social, or spiritual. The quality of life of caregivers improves as well. Worldwide, only about 14% of people who need palliative care currently receive it.
Before concluding, I would like to urge all the state governments to include lessons on the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles in the school curricula. Children should be made aware of the need to prevent non-communicable diseases.
I am sure that this PET-MRI facility will not only benefit the patients of Assam but also patients from the other North Eastern States. My compliments to the team from the State Cancer institute who have implemented this project.
Earlier, I inaugurated the Brahmaputra River Heritage Centre, which is set up in a nearly 150-year-old Bungalow after an elaborate restoration.
The conversion of the Bungalow into the Brahmaputra River Heritage Centre is indeed a symbol of the reverence for the majestic Brahmaputra and the civilization it has nurtured through centuries. The Brahmaputra’s impact is deeply embedded in the culture, food habits, customs, traditions, dances and rituals, religious beliefs and practices of all communities in Assam. I was simply awestruck by the natural beauty of Brahmaputra and will cherish this memory for long. I am sure the Centre will into a vibrant Centre of arts, culture and heritage.
Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President after inaugurating PET-MRI Wing at State Cancer Institute in Guwahati on October 3, 2021.
“Dear sisters and brothers,