In 1995, about a dozen like-minded members of the Oriya community rented a one-bedroom apartment in Antop Hill, paying Rs 1,200 a month. They put up four beds in the house — two for those coming to Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel from outside the city at two more for their attendants. In the next three years, they rented two more flats as the demand for shelter grew.
Since then, the nonprofit that began the initiative, Jagannath Cancer Aid Foundation (JCAF), has helped nearly 2 lakh people get treated for cancer without having to worry about shelter. And after years of service, the JCAF is now ready to build its exclusive shelter home in Kharghar.
The journey has been long. Says Kavita Misshra, general secretary, JCAF, “We would often get calls from friends and relatives coming to Mumbai for cancer treatment. The biggest hurdle they faced was finding shelter.”
Not everyone, she says, could afford hotels or find space in someone’s house, especially when the treatment would go on for months.
Filling a gap
At first, the Foundation helped patients coming from the trustees’ home state of Odhisa but gradually extended the shelter for everyone. “We thought of helping patients with all the non-medical aspects of cancer treatment. This primarily included accommodation, food and transport”, says Ms Misshra. Soon, social workers from Tata Hospital began calling them every time they had a patient looking for accommodation.
In the coming years, the shelter provided by the JCAF shifted to a row house in Koparkhairane where they could accommodate 35 beds at a rent of Rs 10,000. After vacating the row house, in 2012, they rented seven flats in a residential building in the same area where they accommodated 45 beds. The total rent for the flats goes up to Rs 55,000. One flat accommodates three patients and an equal number of relatives. Women patients, mainly those with breast cancer, are given priority for the bedroom so that they can get privacy. The facility has two full-time cooks who provide meals and a 24-hour caretaker.
A social worker from the NGO travels along with patients to Tata Hospital every day and four volunteers including Ms Misshra remain in the hospital for counselling, guidance and helping with procedures such as filling forms, billing, collecting reports, getting medications etc. “We are like a buffer between the patient and the hospital so that their trauma and stress are reduced,” she said.
While services to the patient are provided free of cost, relatives pay Rs 100 to 150 per night for the stay, Rs 40 for lunch or dinner and Rs 20 for breakfast. Extremely poor patients pay nothing. Besides contributions from members, JCAF has been able to raise funds from corporates and individuals who want to contribute for treatment of poor patients. The NGO also organises musical fundraising events.
Their support base has widened to 100 over the years, and includes bankers, industrialists, businessmen and doctors. Ms Misshra says the core team still consists of 15 members.
The Foundation had purchased 600 sq m of land for the new facility in 2000, but starting work on it came with its set of challenges. To begin with, funds were not enough for construction, and they had to pay town planning authority City and Industrial Development Corporation a fine of Rs. 17 lakh. “Finally, we will be able start construction soon as a public sector company has agreed to help us,” says Dr Prashant Mohanty, a trustee. The facility, he says, will come up in a year’s time. The ground-plus-three structure will have 100 beds.
While there are other not-for-profits in this space, the need for such facilities is huge. The Tata Memorial Hospital, the country’s largest cancer hospital, gets nearly 200 new patient registrations every day. On a daily basis, more than 3,000 patients take treatment at the hospital. Humayun Jafri, public relations officer, has closely seen its expansion and growing demand in his 20-year association with the hospital. He says, “We have observed that lack of finances and accommodation are the main reasons many patients leave treatment half way. Organisations who support accommodation and other non-medical aspects make a huge difference.”
The hospital itself has facilitated many shelter homes. Says Mr. Jafri, “We are in the process of building a dharamshala in the campus of the Haffkine Institute nearby, for which we are looking for funds.”
other voluntary help line you can utilize :- Tata Memorial Centre Tel. +91-22-24154002, Mobile 9869441414
Private Patients some of the cost:
- Semi Private (Category B) – Hospital deposit – Rs 35,000. Bed Cost – Rs 1,900/day.
- Private (Category A) – Hospital deposit – Rs 50,000. Bed Cost – Rs 3,500/day.
- Private (Category D) – Hospital deposit – Rs 75,000. Bed Cost – Rs 4,800/day.
- Foreign patient (Category F) Hospital deposit – Rs 2,00,000.