The Assam government and the Tata Trusts announced a partnership to strengthen cancer control through the state government’s health facilities at all levels. The announcement was made at the Advantage Assam Global Investors Summit in Guwahati on Saturday.

The Assam Kaziranga University admissions

Post deliberations by both partners, an initial Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the state government and Tata Trusts in May 2017, announcing the development of a unique care delivery model to address the cancer burden in Assam and the neighbouring region.

“A three-tiered model has now been conceived with leading oncologists, which would offer different levels of cancer care ranging from complicated procedures to simple diagnostic tests,” an official communication said.

The model envisages building capabilities in the existing public health system. Standalone cancer centres will be developed in the premises of medical colleges in the state, and diagnostics and day care centres will be developed adjacent to district hospitals. These together will constitute two ‘step-down’ tiers to complement the three existing apex cancer hospitals in the state.

The model will ensure that no patient will have to travel more than a few hours for accessing the full suite of cancer treatment services. This 3-tier model will be supported by an extensive awareness, screening and early detection programme. The model is centred on the use of technology and task shifting to facilitate operations in remote areas, and patient-centric design principles to provide a good in-hospital experience to the patient and care-giver.

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The proposed infrastructure footprint comprises 17 centres across the state and will be able to provide much needed services starting early next year. The partnership is built on the belief that it will fundamentally alter the profile of cancer care in the coming years and bring relief to poor patients in the state.

The entire public health system will be galvanised to be able to play a part in the cancer care continuum. “The Assam government has made healthcare a top priority and has launched several commendable initiatives in universalising cancer care, such as the establishment of the state cancer institute in Guwahati, provision of free diagnostics at district hospitals, and the introduction of the Atal Amrit Abhiyan scheme which covers a large range of oncology services. The network of government medical colleges has also been expanding rapidly in the last few years. The proposed infrastructure will therefore be a platform to utilise these schemes,” an official communication said.

Tata Trusts has convened a diverse group of top oncologists globally, leading cancer hospitals attached to the National Cancer Grid, engineers and contractors to be able to deliver on the infrastructure needed to deliver cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Speaking on the occasion, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, “We are delighted to be partnering with an institution like Tata Trusts for implementing this much needed programme. Assam has had to bear a high disease burden over the years. It is my belief that with the successful implementation of this program we will be able to reverse this trend and provide affordable treatment at early stages to all patients while reducing the overall occurrence of cancer.”

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Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam health minister, said, “We have been working with the Tata Trusts for the last year in developing this model. We hope that through this collaboration, we will be able to build local cancer care capability on the foundation of the Government’s health initiatives including the establishment of new medical colleges and expansion of universal health insurance.”

“Cancer incidence is increasing alarmingly and costs too have increased, taking treatment out of reach for a vast number of people. We believe that bringing care closer to patients’ home while simultaneously emphasising on awareness, screening, and early detection will help address the need. Tata Trusts looks forward to this partnership with the Assam government, and will bring in national and international best practices to make this a model that could be replicated in other regions in India and elsewhere,” said N Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Sons.

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