Waiting for a bed
A 23-year-old blood cancer patient from Munshiganj was admitted to a private hospital in Dhaka for a temporary period until he can be admitted to the BSMMU for radiotherapy.
It was the second time that he needed a bed in a public hospital for his treatment.
After he was diagnosed with cancer in April last year, he stayed at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) for seven months and recovered from his illness.
Last month, he suddenly fell sick again and was taken to the physician in Dhaka who advised him to be admitted to BSMMU, according to his uncle.
"He has been feeling acute pain all over his body. So, we could not keep him waiting at home. We have taken to this private hospital temporarily as per the physician's advice," the patient's uncle told The Daily Star seeking anonymity.
He said getting a bed at the BSMMU is "so tough" for them. "Still, we have no choice but to wait," he added.
Like this patient, the lengthy waiting time to get admitted to public hospitals for cancer treatment cause immense suffering.
It is due to the shortage of treatment facilities compared to the huge number of cancer patients countrywide.
It was estimated that there were around 1.57 lakh new cancer patients in the country in 2020, according to GLOBOCAN 2020 which provides global cancer statistics and estimates of incidence and mortality in 185 countries.
Of them, 1.09 lakh died.
Meanwhile, there are only 1,000 beds in all the 10 cancer treatment facilities run by the government countrywide. And half of those beds are in the National Institute of Cancer Research & Hospital (NICRH).
Of the facilities, National Cancer Institute Hospital, Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University are in Dhaka.
Rest are being operated as cancer units by seven medical college hospitals in the divisional cities of Chattogram, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Bogura, Sylhet, Barishal and Khulna. The cancer unit operation at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital is suspended currently.
All of these hospitals have only 17 radiotherapy machines. Only six of those machines are functional currently.
Habibullah Talukder Raskin, former professor of the national cancer institute, told The Daily Star, "Due to the shortage of treatment facilities, around two-thirds of cancer patients die without treatment. The inefficiency and shortage of logistics have made the situation worse for the patients."