Nitin Gadkari promises 3 more buildings to house India’s paediatric cancer patients

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    Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari who inaugurated the St Jude’s Centre in Mumbai’s Cotton Green area on Thursday that is housed in three buildings given by the Mumbai Port Trust promised to give another three new buildings belonging to house doctors treating cancer patients.

    One hundred and ninety five families with children being treated for cancer at the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) will be housed at the centre. At the moment there are 97 families living here. The land has been given to the TMC for a period of five years on a token cost of Rs 1.

    In what is one of the first such initiatives in Asia, the Mumbai Port Trust donated three dilapidated buildings to Tata hospital to accommodate families that live on the footpaths. The NGO St Jude that already runs a facility that gives lodging to families with young children suffering from cancer then stepped in to revamp the buildings, raising Rs 17 crore for the project from corporates.

    Subhendra Mondal, 32, a daily wage labourer from Kolkata rushed his nine-year-old son Vivekananda to Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) in Mumbai when the child was diagnosed with cancer. But while treatment is being taking care at the hospital, Subhendra and his wife, along with their young son battling blood cancer found themselves living on the footpath outside the hospital for a month. “50% of the expenditure that patients incur is not towards treatment but food and accommodation related costs,” said Dr Rajendra Badwe, director, TMC.

    “After a month the doctor treating our child put us in touch with the NGO and we came there,” said Subhendra, who had not been able to work since the past three months and has a baby girl who is a year old back in Kolkata, currently being looked after by his parents. Living at the centre, he will return to Kolkata after six months, once his son is cancer free.

    “Parents along with their children undergoing treatment at the hospital will be living here. They are provided food free of cost and there is transport facility to take them to the hospital in Parel,” said Usha Banerji, CEO, St Jude Centre.

    The NGO already runs a centre in Lower Parel as well as the ACTREC hospital in Kharghar where a chunk of cancer patients are treated.

    Mumbai’s real estate cost is daunting for most poor patients who come from across the country and the drop out rates a decade back was as high as 25%. With the food and accommodation needs of patients taken care of in the past few years, the drop out rates is now around 4%.

    “The cure rates among the children are as high as 80% and if a child is cured of cancer at 5, imagine the 60 to 70 years of productive life he/she can live,” said Dr Badwe.

    At the facility in Cotton Green each families are being provided a room with a bed and a cupboard to keep their personal belongings. There is a kitchen area where the family has been provided with ingredients and stoves so they can cook their own food according to their taste.

    “We are giving preference to families living on the street, especially those with girl children since the rate of abandoning the treatment is highest amongst them,

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