Ganga Prem Hospice
organised 18 charitable cancer clinics in the
year 2011-12, the highest number of clinics in
a year as compared to any other previous year.
Each clinic saw 90 patients on average. Almost
every third patient at the clinics was a cancer
patient while 10% of the patients coming to the
clinic had advanced stage cancer. 60 different
cancer types among the patients were seen by Ganga
Prem Hospice in 2011-12.
The Ganga Prem Hospice charitable
cancer clinic services in 2011-12 saw an increase
of 81% in the number of patients seen as compared
to the previous year. The number of cancer patients
and terminally ill cancer patients visiting the
clinic also went up by 25% and 20% respectively.
One of the reasons behind the increase in the
number of patients was that the Ganga Prem Hospice
cancer clinics and screening camps expanded to
towns beyond our base, Rishikesh. Haridwar, Dehradun,
New Tehri and Uttarkashi were the towns covered
in a 200-kilometre radius.
The year also saw eleven
medical practitioners give their consultations
to patients at the monthly cancer clinics. These
oncologists, general surgeons, gynaecologists,
general physicians and ayurvedacharyasgave
their time and services free of charge, both to
the patients and to Ganga Prem Hospice. They took
time off their hospital duties, travelled long
distances from Delhi to the clinic locations,
and were always ready to give further advice over
Breast cancer was by far
the most common cancer found in patients, with
buccal mucosa as the second most common malignancy.
The cancer clinics also doubled
up as screening camps, especially in the mountain
areas where patients otherwise do not have access
to medical experts. Diagnostic and screenings
tests like the Pap smear, biopsies, ultrasounds,
X-rays, CT scans, endoscopies and MRI scans were
sponsored for poor patients, as were laboratory
tests like sputum, urine and other tests.
an underprivileged patient
Prem Hospice strived to provide all-around
support to patients
attending the cancer clinicsnot
just a consultation and a prescription. The
counselling service was of great value to
the patients as after the doctor's consultation,
patients could get information about where
to go and what to do from the counsellor,
who spoke to the patients and their families
Patients who were found to
be terminally ill at the cancer clinic were offered
the Ganga Prem Hospice home care service. Those
who were under-privileged were helped with sponsorship
of their palliative treatment.
The larger number of
clinics also served to introduce Ganga Prem Hospice
to the residents of Uttarakhand and has led to
a significant increase in the number of cancer
patients seeking support from the Hospice. It
has also led to an increase in volunteer support
in the areas of clinic outreach, particularly
in the Uttarkashi district.
The Home Care Programme
In the West,
terminally ill patients may choose to die at home.
In India, due to the absence of hospices, under-privileged
patients have no option other than to die at home.
Cramped living conditions at home, no medical
supportnot even basic medical care equipment
for toiletingno breathing support, and poor
nutrition make dying a far worse experience than
it should be.
The Ganga Prem Hospice home care service works
towards making the last days of cancer patients
more bearable. The only full-time charitable service
of its kind in the state of Uttarakhand, the home
care team of a nurse, sometimes accompanied by
a doctor, and a masseuse, travelled to Dehradun,
Haridwar and Rishikesh six days a week throughout
the year. Each patient received one or two visits
The year 2010-11, which was the second year of
full-time home care service for terminally ill
cancer patients, saw the work get firmly established
in Haridwar and Dehradun, as well as the Ganga
Prem Hospice home city of Rishikesh. Early in
the year, the number of home care patients in
Rishikesh was always far more than the Haridwar
or Dehradun ones, but as time progressed there
was almost an equal number of patients in each
of the three cities at any given time.
Of the 108 cancer patients who were served during
the twelve months of 2011-12, breast cancer was
the single most common cancer found. If we categorise
the cancers according to their sites, then gastrointestinal
cancers had struck 30% of the home care patients,
with head and neck cancers being the second most
prevalent category of cancer after gastrointestinal.
At the beginning of
the year in April 2011, Ganga Prem Hospice was
serving 30 cancer patients a month, and a year
later in March 2012, the number had grown to 41
patients being provided with nursing service.
The division of patients according to gender was
almost equal, with female patients being slightly
more in number: 55 females against 53 males, three
of the males being children.
The elderly continued to be the majority recipients
of the home care service, as 51% of the 108 home
care patients were above the age of 61.
The fact that the Ganga Prem Hospice service facilities
are utilized mainly by the economically weaker
sections of society was evident from the fact
that only 29% of the 108 home care patients the
Hospice served came from financially secure backgrounds.
The rest of the patients were under-privileged
and unable to access the medical care that they
so much needed in their last days.
It was a taxing time for the home care team as
they saw 58 of their 108 patients die during the
year. Some of these patients were like family
as they had been with the Hospice for a long time.
Some were without any support, like a cervix cancer
patient who was shunned by her adult step-sons
and had to live in a make-shift room in one corner
of the courtyard of her husband's house. She eventually
died in hospital, her hospitalization expense
having been paid for by Ganga Prem Hospice.
The home care team not only provided nursing care
such as dressing of tumours, changing of catheters,
monitoring of vital statistics and dispensing
of medicines, but also carried food supplies,
clothes, and medical accessories to the patients,
not to mention the emotional support which was
given to them and their families on every visit.
While the nurse and the ambulance driver, sometimes
accompanied by a doctor and therapist, were the
front-end of the home care service, the Ganga
Prem Hospice counsellor, manager and others worked
behind the scenes, arranging for medicines and
food supplies, sending patients' reports to oncologists,
raising funds for the home care service and the
hospitalisation of patients, and entering each
and every home care visit report and its details
into a database designed specifically to monitor
the daily medical care given by Ganga Prem Hospice
come rain, cold or heat wave.
a Cancer Patient Scheme
Ganga Prem Hospice provided free home care services
to terminally ill cancer patients as well as free
consultations from senior oncologists and counsellors
at the monthly cancer clinics. Almost all poor
patients who came to the Hospice clinics were
provided with free medicines and also guided to
diagnostic centres that give Ganga Prem Hospice
patients reduced rates for tests. Some tests such
as Pap smears, blood sugar, blood, etc, were also
done free of charge at the cancer clinics themselves.
Nutritional supplements were distributed to those
who needed them and, from time to time, fruit
juices, tea and snacks were also given to patients
at the clinic and on home care visits.
As well as the above
mentioned support, the Hospice also provided other
forms of support to underprivileged cancer patients
during the year 2011-2012. This support
included sponsorship for diagnostic tests, surgery,
chemo and radiotherapy, regular supplies of medicines,
hospital stays, travel expenses, food rations,
clothing, and emotional and spiritual support.
Although Ganga Prem Hospice
predominantly sponsors patients who are terminally
ill, in certain cases patients in earlier stages
of cancer are also given help for their needs.
On these occasions the Hospice steps in, in a
timely manner, and pays up front for the necessary
treatment and care. At the same time the Hospice
social workers look for financial sponsors for
the unfortunate patients or help them apply for
the government funds available in such cases.
Hospice supporters and local Rotary clubs are
often approached for financial help and sponsorship
is generally forthcoming.
In the year 2011-2012, 23
poor cancer patients availed of the Hospice Support
a Cancer Patient Scheme, 12 of these being male
and 11 female. Most of the beneficiaries fell
within the 41-50 age group and came from Rishikesh,
although patients from the Dehradun, Haridwar
and Chamoli district were also given support under
the Hospice scheme. More than half of the sponsored
patients had advanced stage cancer and 10 died
within the same year.
|Ramjeet at a Ganga
Prem Hospice cancer clinic
the underprivileged patients who received
help under the Support a Cancer patient scheme,
there were many who were very poor and some
who belonged to scheduled castes. One of the
Hospice's long term patients was a 44-year
old leukemia victim called Ramjeet Yadav.
Quiet and appreciative of all that was done
for him, Ramjeet regularly attended the monthly
He had come from a town far
away from Rishikesh to earn his living as a labourer.
Whatever money came from his efforts was sent
home to feed his wife and four children. There
was certainly nothing left over in his pocket
for leukemia medicines and the nutritious foods
he needed to help them work. Ganga Prem Hospice
counsellor Sarojini Murthy always took special
care to see that the reticent Ramjeet had all
that he needed, reminding him when it was time
to have his regular blood tests and sending him
to hospital in the Hospice ambulance. Sarojini
Ji saw to it that Ramjeet was provided with payment
of his tests, leukemia medicine, nutritional supplements,
fruit, vegetables and milk, as well as warm clothes
for the winter. When it came time for Ramjeet's
eldest daughter to be married, Sarojini Ji spoke
to local Hospice supporters and ensured that Ramjeet
had some simple household gifts to take home for
his daughter's wedding.
Stories of some of
the other cancer patients who were sponsored under
the Ganga Prem Hospice Support a Cancer Patient
Scheme in 2011-2012 can be seen in the Patients'
Stories section of the Ganga Prem Hospice website
and include the stories of Sarla