Super-specialist oncologists not keen on working in Meghalaya: Ampareen
By Our Reporter
SHILLONG, Feb 12: Meghalaya, which holds the dubious distinction of being the cancer centre of India, is grappling with the daunting task of finding super-specialist oncologists that is posing a major hurdle in bolstering cancer treatment in the state. The primary reason for this predicament is the Meghalaya State Reservation Policy, Health Minister Ampareen Lyngdoh said on Monday.
Speaking on the sidelines of Meghalaya Cancer Conclave 2024, Lyngdoh expressed concern over the scarcity of specialists willing to relocate to Meghalaya.
She said, “We are having a hard time finding a specialist who wants to come to Meghalaya, and if by any chance we happen to find one, they have to pass the scrutiny of the reservation policy, and questions arise if the jobs are given outside the purview of the policy.”
“So that ties us down as a state,” she added.
She was responding to a query about making cancer treatment available and affordable in the state.
Acknowledging the inherent challenges in the state’s healthcare system, Lyngdoh said that the department and the state government is trying, and they are now determined to send the in-house doctors for training and additional education, to fill in the vacancies, not only in cancer treatment, but in other departments, too.
She called for refurbishing the healthcare system. “It is heartbreaking to know that the radio-therapy machines in Shillong Civil Hospital are non-functional. Out of the 7-8 dialysis machines only three are working. Let’s have a review of non-functional machines everywhere and get them functional. I will lead the department forward,” she stressed, while stating that patients encounter other setbacks such as rude nurses or counsellors who are either not performing well or are absent from duty.
Highlighting the progress made in cancer treatment accessibility, Lyngdoh said that the availability of radiation treatment, chemotherapy, and essential drugs within the state is a recent phenomenon. She also emphasised the government’s initiative to expand the coverage of the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme (MHIS) to include more high-cost ailments.
Lyngdoh urged citizens to register for MHIS in advance rather than waiting until the last moment.
She also added that the dispatched mobile endoscopy units to various institutions in various districts will be reviewed after certain time frame, as they are a key to making cancer early detection accessible, and early detection is the way to prevent cancer.
She also disclosed that the state government is keen to declare February as a month for spreading awareness about cancer.
Prem Anand, Chief Business Officer of Apollo Telemedicine Networking Foundation, echoed Lyngdoh’s sentiments regarding the challenges of securing super-specialist oncologists in smaller states like Meghalaya. He advocated for a public-private partnership to address these challenges effectively. Anand highlighted the potential of collaboration between organisations and the Meghalaya government to streamline efforts and avoid duplication in healthcare infrastructure development.
Dr K Ganapathy, noted neurosurgeon and distinguished visiting professor, IIT Kanpur etc., rued the fact that the Northeastern region still suffered from serious gaps in healthcare when the rest of the country has been able to provide the best treatment not only to its own people but also people from outside the country.
“The Northeastern region feels like a different planet. If India can introduce the UPI payment system to the world and successfully launch the Chandrayaan mission, it is not the absence of technology that is afflicting cancer victims but the absence of dedicated, devoted, passionate team of healthcare givers and this must be addressed,” Dr Ganapathy said, suggesting that private-public partnership is the way forward.