- Meenakshi J, freelance journalist
- Assam, India
Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (CCHRC) is a cancer hospital with a difference. It provides free food and accommodation to its patients during their regular treatment—already a rarity in India, where public hospitals often charge patients with cancer for meals and a bed, as well as tests. But it also provides ad hoc employment to patients, and sometimes their carers, many of whom belong to indigenous communities and marginalised groups.
Located on the outskirts of Silchar, in the Barak Valley of India’s north eastern state of Assam, CCHRC is a non-profit hospital established in 1997. Supported by the National Rural Health Mission, a government initiative to deliver affordable and accessible healthcare through community involvement, the 150 bed site provides comprehensive cancer care to daily wage workers, specifically to those working on tea plantations. This is an underserved and hard-to-reach section of Indian society, living in a flood prone region and with one of the highest number of cancer cases in the country.1
“When we started, we were under the assumption that providing free treatment would encourage patients to come,” says Ravi Kannan, surgical oncologist and CCHRC director, “But most of them did not complete their treatments, as they could not afford to revisit the hospital.”
According to CCHRC, over 80% of its patients are daily wage earners working in tea plantations and agricultural lands of the region; 50% of these patients earn Rs10 000 (£97; $121; €112) or less a month, often paid daily.2 Many …