Cancer hospital for children feels the increasing burden


Around 481 children newly diagnosed as cancer sufferers visited the Children Cancer Hospital (CCH) last year, while 7,809 including newly and previously diagnosed were admitted to the facility between July 2010 and June 2011.
“Almost 70 percent of the 15,000 children who could not afford treatment were provided all healthcare facilities free of charge while 20 percent of them were provided partial (up to 80 percent) support in 2010,” child oncologist and CCH CEO Shamvil Ashraf told the media on Sunday.
The CCH Karachi, which is the only dedicated healthcare facility in the private sector in the country that provides treatment to children suffering from cancer, spent Rs 82 million on treating children from low-income group families.
Started in 2001 with six in-patient beds, the CCH has now grown into a 28-bed specialised healthcare facility for the treatment of various types of cancers among children, who visit the hospital from all over the country.
“The parents of only 10 percent of the thousands of children that are brought at the CCH are able to afford the treatment expenses, highlighting the importance of philanthropic work in this sector,” Dr Ashraf said.
According to him, the average of treatment cost of each child suffering from childhood cancer is up to Rs 25, 000, which includes laboratory expenses, provision of medicines, chemotherapy, radiology and radiotherapy. 
“Up to 90 percent of all these expenses is met by generous donations that the hospital receives from the well-to-do of the society, philanthropists and people who feel the pain of children suffering from cancer,” he added.
Dr Ashraf said that the CCH started with a single-room clinic, but has now become the first and last hope for parents of the unfortunate children suffering from childhood cancer. “These children are referred to the CCH Karachi not only from Karachi and other cities of the country, but also from Iran and Afghanistan,” he added.
“All this is happening only due to the help of God and the support of people, who are supporting the hospital in providing quality treatment to the patients. Otherwise, the hospital can never meet the expenses from what it charges from the patients.”
The oncologist, who has trained a dozen or more paediatricians in child oncology and is also assisting the authorities concerned in the establishment of child oncology departments at various public health facilities, said that in the year 2011-12, they are expecting to spend up to Rs 130 million on the treatment of children who cannot afford treatment.
“This estimate is based on the growing number of children visiting the CCH. With each passing day, an overwhelming number of children are being diagnosed with cancer these days and the facilities for treatment are very limited in the country,” he said.
“The arrival of new patients at the CCH has doubled in the last five years. Even the number of patients visiting the OPD has almost doubled from 7,967 to 15,000 since 2005-06,” he added.
“We are a philanthropic health facility and we don’t charge a single penny from parents who cannot afford treatment at the few private hospitals that offer cancer treatment for children. This is resulting in an overwhelming burden on us as the CCH does not have enough resources to treat them all.”
The oncologist maintained that the CCH was started with a vision to diagnose and provide treatment to every child suffering from cancer regardless of his or her parents’ ability to pay.
“And we are striving to establish the CCH as the centre of excellence in Pakistan and create mass awareness about childhood cancer” he added. 
“The CCH is currently being operated at a rented building and patients are taken to some private hospitals for surgery and advance tests under an agreement with them but efforts are underway to construct a purpose-built hospital with all facilities for cancer treatment under one roof.”