PESHAWAR, July 6: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department’s failure to execute the free cancer treatment programme is threatening the life of hundreds of poor people suffering from the deadly disease in the province.
Last year, the government had allocated Rs500 million for the programme meant mostly for the people seeking early stage cancer treatment.
A local senior oncologist told Dawn on Saturday that cancer patients had been anxiously awaiting the start of the programme as their lives were closely linked to it.
“Treatment of a cancer sufferer costs Rs1-Rs2million, which most patients can’t afford and therefore, the delay in the free treatment programme’s launch is stressing them out,” he said.
The oncologist said doctors at three cancer wards in Peshawar and Abbottabad had already registered cancer patients for free treatment.
“We have planned to provide them with free diagnostic and treatment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the officials at the health department said the provincial director general (health services) held the key to the procurement of drugs from pharmaceutical firms with which a technical committee had reached agreement in open bidding in December 2012.
They said as the health department was to begin the project, an unsuccessful bidder obtained a stay order from a civil court against the agreement delaying its execution for at least six months until the order was vacated in June.
The officials said they appreciated the finance department for transferring the project funds to the account of the health department, which the department could use during the new financial year.
They said they had signed an agreement with suppliers that they would acquire stock of the medicines in line with the need of the patients.
The officials said under the agreement, the firms were bound to supply drugs at the same price throughout the project duration and thus, enabling the department to provide cancer sufferers with free treatment.
“The companies will charge one rate for the entire duration of the programme. The last government had also pledged continuation of the programme in view of the costliness of cancer drugs,” an official said.
He said under the agreement, the health department would not float fresh drug supply bids as it would discontinue treatment.
“The patients require uninterrupted treatment and any break could lead to complications for them,” he said.
When contacted, provincial director general (health services) Dr Mohammad Zafar said the project had been delayed due to some technical problems, which had been addressed.
“We have advised the technical committee to hammer out modalities to purchase patent drugs from the respective manufacturers and begin the programme at the earliest to the benefit of the cancer patients,” he said.
Mr Zafar said the department was making sure that patients get basic cancer drugs first and that other common drugs could be purchased later.
“Once the committee enlists patent drugs in a written statement to the department, we will purchase them from the open market,” he said.