Srinagar: Cancer patients undergoing treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre at SKIMS hospital here are aghast as the hospital authorities have decided to charge fees for diagnostic tests which were earlier conducted free.
Sarina (name changed), a young woman undergoing treatment at the centre for last four years, said she was shocked to find out that she will have to pay for her blood tests.
"For four years, these tests were carried out free of charge. When I went to hospital on Tuesday, I was asked to pay or get the tests done elsewhere," Sarina told a news agency.
Belonging to a poor family, the woman said it will be difficult for her to continue her treatment for long if she has to pay for all diagnostics tests.
"Every time we hear the ministers and officials saying that crores are being spent on free treatment of people suffering from such diseases. Where does all that money go?" Mohammad Aiyaz, another cancer patient asked.
Nayeem Ahmad, whose father is a cancer patient, said the fight against the disease is a long-drawn process which drains the financial resources of a family.
If cost cutting is the aim of the move to charge fees, the officials of the hospital should have first stopped the wasteful expenditure like travel expenses, Ahmad said.
"Most of the head of the departments have vehicles provided by the hospital and they spend lakhs on fuel every month. Let them come to the hospital in their own vehicles and pay for the fuel from their pocket," he added.
Director SKIMS Showkat Zargar said the move of charging the patients was to check malpractices.
"We had detected some cases where fictitious names and identification numbers of cancer patients were used to misuse the diagnostic labs of the hospital," he said.
Zargar said it is not possible for the hospital authorities to keep an eye on every patient as thousands are treated every month.
He said since taking over as the Director of the hospital, he has provided free medicine worth Rs 25 lakh to the patients.
"We have the welfare of genuine patients in our mind but we cannot allow malpractices to continue," he added.