WHEN Union Minister Nitin Gadkari formally inaugurates a residential facility for child cancer patients on Thursday, it will mark the start of a first-ever corporate social responsibility project in the field of cancer care by the Mumbai Port Trust, which has provided the space to house over 250 patients and a parent each. The facility, located in Cotton Green, comprises four buildings owned by the MbPT which will now house, at no cost, outstation child cancer patients.
While a handful of patients and their guardians have been living in the Cotton Green centre since September last year, a formal inauguration of the facility will be conducted on Thursday. The MbPT has given the space to Tata Memorial Hospital, which in turn has allotted the space for residential centres to be operated by St Jude India Childcare Centre.
Launched over a decade back to offer residential space for paediatric cancer patients who visit big cities seeking treatment, St Jude’s currently runs 18 centres in Mumbai, Kharghar, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Jaipur. With the Mumbai strength now being nearly trebled from 90 to 255 patients, the organisation believes they will be able to care for 40 per cent of outstation children visiting Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel for chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or follow-up treatment.
“We are continuing to expand and hope that we will get more space through various agencies,” said Usha Banerjee, CEO of St Jude India.
The child patients and a family member each, many having lived for some time on the pavements outside Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel or in grubby lodges in the distant suburbs, have in these centres a safe and clean living space, a supply of cooking rations for the week, access to an individual stove top and cooking gas, as well as transportation to the hospital and back. In addition, the Cotton Green centre offers a huge playing space for the children, a conference room and a multipurpose activity room.
Oncologists say childhood cancers are highly curable, rendering St Jude’s role critical to ensuring that patients do not pull out of treatment mid-way for want of affordable living space in Mumbai.
MbPT chairman Sanjay Bhatia says the original proposal had been to draw up a lease agreement after the Tata Memorial Hospital and St Jude’s made a representation seeking space. It was decided at the board meeting later that the port trust should take it up as part of their CSR activities. “All of us have seen these patients and their families on the street outside the Tata Memorial Hospital, so when the idea came up, everybody’s heart melted.” The buildings have been given to Tata Hospital at a lease rent of Re 1 for five years.
In the new complex, three buildings have a centre on four floors each. The fourth building provides accommodation to 10 doctors from Tata Memorial, including paediatric oncologists. Each centre houses 12 families under the care of a Centre Manager and support staff. Each building has a counselling room and a library.
The 1.2 acre campus has two large playgrounds, bright sunlit rooms and cheery shared kitchens. An old outhouse was remodelled for use as office space and a small studio apartment served as accommodation for a manager. The renovation of a dilapidated structure in the campus was also completed recently to house security and a multipurpose centre.
“MbPT has never undertaken such a project in the past, and those of us who met the children and patients at the centre are thrilled to see the work that Tata and St Jude are doing,” Bhatia said.