Fifty-four-year-old Durga Prasad Bhusal, a resident of Jagatpur, Chitwan, has been receiving treatment for urinary bladder cancer at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre in New Delhi for a year. Bharatpur Cancer Hospital in Nepal is just 14km from his home—a half-an-hour bus ride.
In 2015, Bhusal retired after teaching at a local school for 23 years when he had a problem in the urinary bladder. Then he underwent a surgery at a hospital in Kathmandu. He believed that the surgery had been “successful” and the doctors didn’t suspect anything wrong too. Then suddenly a year ago, his disease relapsed. Doctors concluded that it was cancer, and advised him to go to Delhi for treatment.
Following the diagnosis, Bhusal visited Delhi in January earlier this year, accompanied by his wife Parbati. His family has already spent over Rs4 million in one year. Yet, they don’t know how long he will have to stay in the Indian capital and how much money would be required for the treatment.
Since then, Bhusal has undergone 14 rounds of chemotherapy. One chemo session costs around Rs64,000. He has already had four CT scans. When he had an infection, they had to pay Rs200,000 to the hospital.
Apart from living costs, the Bhusal couple spends INR700 daily on vegetables, fruits, and milk.
The couple incurs monthly expenses of Rs48,000 except for medical treatment.
Despite the high costs, Bhusal chose the Indian hospital for treatment when they had a cancer hospital in their hometown Bharatpur. Being a local, Bhusal was well aware of the tarnished reputation of Bharatpur Hospital due to politicking, corruption and mismanagement.
“Nobody says the hospital is good. Had the service at Bharatpur Hospital been good, hundreds of people including myself wouldn’t have been compelled to come to Delhi for treatment,” said Bhusal.
He arranged for the money for treatment by borrowing from neighbours and relatives. “I will pay the loan by selling my property once I return home after treatment,” he said.
Bhusal lamented that a Nepali spends Rs25,00,000 on average for treatment in Delhi but the government seems unaware of this fact.
Bhusal is not the only one from Chitwan who visits the Indian city for cancer treatment. The Post talked to many cancer patients from Chitwan who have rented rooms for months in Sombazaar near the Rajiv Gandhi Hospital.
Rupa Piya, a resident of Bharatpur-16, has been in Delhi for nine months for the treatment of her 11-year-old son Sujan. Bharatpur Cancer Hospital is only five kilometres from her home. But she has been renting a room in Rohini sector-5 since May.
Earlier in March-April, her son Sujan complained of recurring pain in his leg. Then she took his son to Chitwan Medical College. Doctors sent them back saying that there was nothing serious. But she insisted on an x-ray examination even as the doctors said it was not necessary. The x-ray image showed Sujan had tumour in his right leg.
At the Bharatpur Cancer Hospital, Dr Sushil Adhikari said a surgery would be required to remove the tumour from Sujan’s leg and there was only a 50 percent chance of saving his leg. Shocked by the doctor’s statement, she started seeking alternatives. Her friends and relatives suggested that she should take her son to Delhi for treatment.
Since May, Sujan has received chemotherapy 17 times. Every treatment session costs her Rs40,000. Her monthly expenses total INR35,000. Her only source of income is her husband—a migrant worker in Dubai. She has been arranging for the money for treatment by borrowing it from her friends and relatives. “I am planning to sell my house to repay the loan once I return home after treatment,” said Rupa.
Four years ago, Usha Simkhada (Mainali), 47, a resident of Chitwan’s Khaireni Municipa-lity-16, was diagnosed with ovary cancer at a hospital in Kathmandu. Without wasting time, she flew to New Delhi for treatment. Her husband Arunkanta took her to Delhi again when her condition relapsed four months ago. Though the Mainalis live only 17km away from the Bharatpur Cancer Hospital, they haven’t been there even once in four years.
“We never heard anything good about the hospital. Sometimes they refer patients to other hospitals saying the machine has malfunctioned, and the patients have to wait too long for an operation. We thought it is just waste of time to go there,” said Arunkanta.
The Mainali family, whose occupation is farming, has already spent Rs42,00,000 in New Delhi for Usha’s treatment. “We have no choice but to come to Delhi as there is no facility for treatment in our country,” said Arunkanta.
Even the patients, who went to Bharatpur Cancer Hospital for treatment, do not have a pleasant experience. Thirty-four-year-old Binod Chaudhary, who marketed products for a company, went to Bharatpur Hospital after he had a tumour-like sensation in his left calf. He said he had to quarrel with the hospital staff to get a biopsy report. Frustrated at the situation of Bharatpur Hospital, he came to Delhi.
Binod Chaudhary and his wife at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Hospital, New Delhi.
What lends credence to the waning faith of the people in Bharatpur Hospital is that even government ministers and high-ranking officials are visiting Delhi for treatment.
One of them is Province 3 Minister for Land Management, Agriculture, and Cooperative Dawa Dorje Lama. Lama’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. Everyone he consulted with said there was no alternative to chemotherapy. A permanent resident of Bhandara in Chitwan, Lama came to Delhi with his wife without considering the Bharatpur Medical College, which lies 26km from his home.
Asked why he came to Delhi for treatment, Lama’s son Bishwa Shanta said, “We came straight to Delhi because often times the report at the hospital determines where the patients should be referred to.”
Nepali people forced to come to Delhi for treatment have a lot of complaints with the local hospitals and the government. They expressed displeasure at the way doctors and nurses respond to the patients in Nepal’s hospitals.
“What else can we do when we get bad treatment from doctors at the hospitals in our hometown?” said Binod. “What can we expect from the doctors who do not talk to patients openly?”
Rupa Piya said she was compelled to visit Delhi because the doctors in Nepal demoralised her at the beginning. “How can we trust the doctors when they give up hope themselves?” she said. Some Nepali patients, who came to Delhi for treatment, complained that the state remained insensitive to the plight of citizens.
“Sombazaar is full of Nepali patients. But the Delhi-based Nepali embassy has not come to enquire about the people. What’s the point of having an embassy in New Delhi if they do not care about the situation of Nepalis here?” said Mainali.