Prostate gland surgery still out of reach for most

Treatment to offset post-operation risks too expensive

The three Central government hospitals in the national capital have been using the laser prostatectomy procedure to treat prostate gland enlargement for over three years now.  However, the technology which neutralises various post-surgery risks and threats, is unaffordable for most patients.

Only in August this year, the Union Health Ministry had approved free laser treatment for only the high-risk patients who are beneficiaries of the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS).

This means, the treatment by this technology, costing a little over Rs 60,000 at the public hospitals, has been out of reach for most other patients.

In private hospitals the cost goes up by up to four times. None of the Delhi government hospitals has even the urology department, forget about providing this service.
Despite the availability of the much safer technology, patients are forced to opt for transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP).

“After TURP, there are chances of post-operation impotency, leakage of urine and blood, and absorption of excessive water into body, leading to cardiac arrest,” said Dr Anup Kumar, head of urology department at Safdarjung Hospital.

It was the first government hospital in the capital to get this technology and over 500 such surgeries, the highest amongst all the three hospitals, have been performed there.
The hospital is in the process of providing even the BPL card holders free treatment by this technology.

“Most patients in the other categories settle for TURP which costs only around Rs 1,500. Those who can afford have to wait for over six months,” said Kumar.

The waiting period is even longer at AIIMS and Dr RML Hospital, which currently provide the service free of charge to below poverty line card holders.

Regarding the beneficiaries of CGHS scheme, only those patients suffering from kidney or heart failures, or those who are on continuous dosage of anticoagulants, or those with their prostate gland weighing above 60 gms are eligible.

“But the fact remains that we are often forced to refuse TURP surgery to many of those patients who are suffering from kidney failure or severe cardio-respiratory problems,” said Dr Anup.

Those who fall in neither of the categories of beneficiaries, and are high-risk patients, end up living a life of misery.

Worldwide the technique is preferred most often, with around 5,75,000 such surgeries performed so far. Dr Anup says, in the US, over 90 per cent of patients with the problem are treated by the laser technology.

In India, only around 10,000 such procedures have been performed so far.

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