Chitra Shah, a thirty-year-old was devastated when she discovered that her husband was suffering from lung cancer.
She found it extremely hard to look after her young child and aged in-laws and take her husband for his post-surgery chemotherapy sessions to a hospital 40 km away. A financial crunch put additional pressure on her.
A new programme which provides cancer care including Intensive Care Unit (ICU) services and chemotherapy at home has however come as a boon for her.
"Though the struggle against cancer is most difficult and devastating, it can be made a little less traumatic and a little more convenient if treatment procedures can be brought home," Gaurav Thukral, Head Medical Services, HealthCare at Home (HCAH), told IANS.
Thukral, who pioneered the concept, left his job as an internal medicine doctor at Fortis to launch the project last year. The HealthCare at Home concept was launched after many of his patients asked him about ways to take care of cancer patients at home.
He said instead of cumbersome visits to hospitals, cancer patients can now take chemotherapy injections at home from trained nurses and medical practitioners.
Those in need of intensive care can get the equipment at home too.
Surprisingly the facility is cost effective too.
While a chemotherapy injection costs anywhere between Rs. 2,000 and Rs.10,000, a home ICU costs Rs.8,000-10,000.
Nurses provided are adept at administering adjuvant drugs. They are also experts at symptomatic management and pain relief management. The nurses are made to undergo specialized training in palliative care, particularly to provide counselling and support to the patients that help boost their morale, resulting in their quicker recovery, said Thukral, whose project is the first of its kind in India.
He provides services to patients in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
"There are several reasons for which people prefer home care to hospital care for cancer patients. One of the many is peace of mind. Just the feeling of being home is comforting and expedites the patients' recovery, as being around the family and friends boost their morale," Thukral told IANS.
India has more than three million cancer patients.
Longer stay at hospitals lead to huge medical bills, thereby putting enormous pressure on family members. Compared to hospital stay, home care is cost effective as it cuts the indirect expenditures, he said.
Preeti Jain, consultant/oncology surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurgaon, said: "It is true that the work-life balance of the family members goes for a toss if a person is diagnosed with cancer.
"Imagine a patient waiting in day care to get only a chemo injection done. If advisable by treating doctor, chemo injection can be given at home by trained oncology nurses, which will ultimately save the hassle of patients and their families," Jain told IANS.
However, putting in a note of caution, Deepak Rautray, senior consultant surgical oncologist, International Oncology Cancer Centre, Fortis hospital, Noida, said chemotherapy injections should be administered very carefully.
"A single wrong dose can cause havoc with normal cells. Thus only a trained professional with a lot of experience should administer the same".