Rs. 250 Million Collected, Ten Months Gone Still No PET Scanner

by Priyantha Hettige

“Hello good morning, is this the Maharagama Apeksha hospital?”

“Yes this is the Apeksha hospital, what can we do for you?”

“I called to find out if the PET scanner has been installed yet.”

“Who are you sir?”

“I am someone who contributed towards it and waiting eagerly to see when it will be installed.”

“Yes sir we receive many calls every day inquiring about the scanner as it is several months since the money was collected. The building construction is currently underway and we will be able to fix the Pet scanner soon,”

“Okay thank you for the information, have a good day.”

We managed to find the telephone number of the Apeksha hospital on the internet that has answers to almost any and everything you can possibly think of. Although we contacted the higher-ups at the health department, we were unable to get any information. However, having decided to poke my face into the internet, I managed to find more information that I would have ever been able to obtain if I had waited for the Health Ministry officials to give it to me.

As I expected the information was accurate. The people who have been dreaming of having this PET scanner for their convenience are waiting eagerly for this machine to be installed. However, it is sad that they have still not been able to realise their dreams. The PET scanner is still not installed and the above phone conversation bears witness to it.

 

The PET Scan dream

Not long ago the story of the PET scan was quite new to us but today it has reached some mileage. It has been the topic of discussion for the past year. The Maharagama Cancer hospital which had gained notoriety over time is today known as the “Apeksha Hospital” which means hope.

If the much dreaded disease and the trauma associated with it can be relieved even in a small way with the changing of the name of this hospital, it is a great relief for those suffering from cancer. For the treatment of the patients suffering from Cancer, the hospital was lacking the highly sophisticated PET scanner which would be of immense use for these patients.  The previous regime too only concentrated on luxury vehicles and conveniences of their ministers and no one cared a tuppence for the suffering of the people affected by cancer. They did not care about anyone else but themselves. In such a circumstance it is heartening to see that among the selfish elite, there are still many compassionate souls who cared enough to contribute towards the relieving of sufferings of these less fortunate people.

Accordingly, the national ‘Fight Cancer’ drive was launched with the aim of collecting funds to purchase the PET scanner. Although a sum of Rs. 200 million was needed for the purchase of the PET scanner, the contributions were far greater.  It was the country’s ordinary people who mostly contributed towards this worthy cause and amounts ranging from Rs. 10 were being donated by people across the country. Through this national fund raising campaign, a sum of Rs. 250 million was collected. The collection drive commenced in March 2015 and it caught on like wild fire far exceeding all expectations. Within a period of just 18 months, by September 2016 the collections had exceeded Rs. 250 million.

 

Dysfunctional tender procedures

Yet it’s been almost ten months from September 2016 to June this year but although the money was collected there is no PET scanner in sight, much to the disappointment of the thousands of ordinary people who contributed to make this dream a reality. However, it is no one to blame but the government and its dysfunctional tender procedures.  These tender procedures are taking far too long and the proposed building on the premises of the hospital is still incomplete. Yet the main reason for the delay in installing the PET scanner machine is the snail pace of the government tender procedure. Despite the money being collected, the process of installing the machine is being delayed as a result of the government’s delay.

The President of the  kadija foundation that initiated the fund collection drive, S.H. Mohamed said the money collection from donors amounting to Rs. 252 million was safely deposited in an account and they would be able to overcome all obstacles within the next 3-4 months and purchase and install the PET scanner. However, he said that the primary obstacle slowing the process down was the government tender procedure.

Meanwhile it is also vital to ascertain how important the PET scanner is to a cancer patient’s treatment. A PET scan uses radiation to produce 3-D, colour images of the inside of the human body. Rather than simply showing what an organ looks like, it can show how well it is working. PET stands for positron emission tomography. The machine detects radiation that is emitted by a radiotracer which is injected into the body. Unlike other imaging tests, such as CT or MRI, PET scans show problems at the cellular level. This gives your doctor the best view of complex systemic diseases, such as, coronary artery disease, brain tumours, memory disorders and seizures.

A PET scan may be combined with a CT scan at many cancer treatment centers. However, you may hear your doctor refer to this procedure just as a PET scan. A PET-CT scan is one way to find cancer and learn its stage. Stage is a way to describe where the cancer is, if it has spread, and if it is changing how your organs work. Knowing this helps you and your doctor choose the best treatment. It also helps doctors predict your chance of recovery.

 

Uses of PET scan

Doctors also use PET-CT scans to find the right place for a biopsy. Find out if the cancer treatment is working, evaluate how well treatment has worked after it ends and plan radiation therapy.

This machine is a vital aspect in the detection and treatment of a cancer patient’s condition. This is why the PET scanner is a vital component that is needed at the Apeksha hospital in Maharagama. A PET scan creates pictures of organs and tissues in the body. First, a technician gives you an injection of a small amount of a radioactive substance. Your organs and tissues pick up this substance. Areas that use more energy pick up more. Cancer cells pick up a lot, because they tend to use more energy than healthy cells. Then a scan shows where the radioactive substance is in your body.

A CT scan uses x-rays to create a 3-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. It shows anything abnormal, including tumors. Sometimes, a special dye called a contrast medium is given before the scan to provide better detail on the image.

Currently the PET scanner is only available in Sri Lanka at a leading private hospital. They charge around Rs. 115,000 for the test. The reason that such a large amount is charged for the test is due to the huge investment required to purchase and install this sophisticated machine. Hence due to the huge cost of the test, only the wealthy can afford it while the ordinary person is deprived of this high tech test to detect his cancer simply because it is beyond his/her affordability. Hence, the merit in having contributed to such a machine for the Apeksha hospital so that the ordinary man can have access to this facility is immense. In Sri Lanka the annual cancer patients detected stands at a staggering 15,000 to 20,000 patients. This is unbelievable, but due to the advancement in modern treatment methods, the death rate is somewhat reduced.

Cancer not only affects the older generation, it does not discriminate and many children are also detected annually with this dreaded disease. Hence it is ironic that the people having come together and collected more than what was required for this PET scanner in order to avail these cancer patients of a better chance of survival, ten months down the line the government has still not been able to purchase this machine despite the money being available, is merely the outdated and snail paced tender procedure. Let us hope that the government will quicken its step and make arrangements for this machine to be bought expeditiously so that these cancer patients can be given some hope.

7 Comments for “Rs. 250 Million Collected, Ten Months Gone Still No PET Scanner”

  1. Sangaralingham

    PET scanner is vey useful machine and it’s use is of value if it is used properly by competent technicians and interpreted by well trained clinician. Even in advanced countries itis used only in teaching hospitals or speciality centers

  2. kumudu amaradasa

    Finance ministry/ government must immediately convert money collected in to $ and keep the money in a savings account . This way at least the no additional money needed to purchase the scanner in the future .

  3. Mosquito breeding spot in SD & CC site in Kaldemulla, Ratmalana
    This has reference to Mosquito breeding spot at State Development & Construction Corporation(SD&CC), Galle Road Ratmalana

    Please note that Mount View Residencies is a residential condominium consists of eighty five (85) residential units located at 95 & 97 Galle Road, Kaldemulla, Ratmalana. Adjoining this Mosquito breeding spot in SD & CC site in Kaldemulla, Ratmalana is Mount View Residencies at Ratmlana.

    We are made to understand from MOH office, Moratuwa that remedial action has been taken to prevent this said mosquito breeding at the above site. SD & CC were charged Rs. 25,000 at the Mount Lavinia courts. However, 18 months have passed, still Mosquito breeding spot is continuing and no follow action by MOH office Moratuwa.

    Government departments have money to pay the fines but they do not comply with the instructions of MOH office, Moratuwa
    Why not investigate?

  4. Mammal

    Which account is the money in now and whose name? 252 million earns big interest and is the interest bein accumulated to the fund or someones personal use?

  5. Why is a Govt tender procedure reqd for this purchase ? The total
    money for the project has been through public Donations. By the time
    the tender procedure is complete the cost would have escalated and then
    more funds would be required. The tender procedure would then have to be gone through all over again for the increased amount, and the cycle of Govt tender procedures repeated.
    Meanwhile the poor patients requiring testing would be left high and dry.
    Typical Govt foot dragging. What a shame !!

  6. bala sunderam

    The President should take this subject as a top priority to accomplish on behalf of the cancer sufferers BEFORE he investigates the salaries of the directors at SRILANKAN AIRLINES. We thank Sunday Leader for bringing this important issue to the public domain.

  7. manju

    PET scan is useful in testing certain cancers. It is not a form of treatment. It is by no means essential to treat majority of cancers. Even if installed, the FDG which is a radio pharmaceutical is not produced in Sri Lanka as a Cyclotron ( Mini Nuclear reactor) is needed to produce FDG. It cost large sums of money to air freight FDG. This is the reason PET scan cost much more than in SL private sector.
    SL need to have its own Cyclotron to produce FDG and many other radio pharmaceuticals. Atomic energy agency need to take the lead in this with help from IAEA.

    Interestion to note that MRI scanning which is essential to test most cancers is NOT available in Cancer Institute Maharagama. The hospital clinicians warned authorities that MRI is the priority and the PET may not be viable without a Cyclotron.

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