Treatment goes on come hell or high water

Whenever the rain relents, staff at a waterlogged cancer hospital in northeast India seize the chance to administer chemotherapy to patients on the road outside, creating a pitiful image of the misery caused by the region's worst floods in years.

Located in the Barak valley in Assam, the 150-bed Cachar Cancer Hospital And Research Centre has been inundated by rain for days.

The situation has become so dire that its administrators have requested for life jackets and an inflatable raft to transport patients and staff, along with other essentials needed to keep the facility running.

"Procedures that can be done outside, like chemotherapy and initial diagnosis, we do on the road where there is minimal water-logging," said Ms Dharshana R, head of the hospital's resource-mobilisation department.

"If anybody requires emergency surgery, we are conducting them, but we have reduced the overall numbers because of a shortage of nitrous gas required for anaesthesia."

She added that doctors could carry out only four operations in the past week, compared with 20 a week before the flooding became too bad.

Fresh supplies of drinking water, food and diesel for back-up power and fuel for cooking were also needed.

The nearby Barak river flows from the hills of an adjoining state.

While the flood waters have started to recede in many other areas located near Assam's mighty Brahmaputra river, the situation in Cachar and its neighbouring Karimganj and Hailakandi districts continues to be grim, Assam's Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

In Assam and neighbouring Bangladesh, more than 150 people have died and millions have been displaced by the catastrophic floods in recent weeks and houses have become submerged in low-lying areas.

Nearly all the beds at the cancer hospital were occupied before the floods worsened more than a week ago, but it had to send patients home or to safer locations.

Now there are just 85 patients in its wards, according to Ms Dharshana.

On Monday in Assam, five more people died as a result of the floods, taking the toll to 72 since the disaster began about three weeks ago.


"Procedures that can be done outside, like chemotherapy and initial diagnosis, we do on the road where there is minimal water-logging."

- Ms Dharshana R, head of the resource-mobilisation department


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