In October 2008, IMPACT collaborated with MNJ Cancer Hospital to establish a 14-bed pediatric oncology unit. Prior to this, children at MNJ were treated alongside adults. The lack of an exclusive space and specially trained staff contributed heavily to low cure rates. The new ward grew quickly and was soon treating 35 to 40 children at any given time. Recognizing the need for a bigger and better space, NATCO Trust came forward and built a 45-bed pediatric oncology unit that includes isolation rooms, procedure rooms and a playroom. Today the NATCO pediatric oncology ward treats around 70 children every day.
IMPACT supports the day-to-day maintenance of the ward including the salaries of five ward attendants and security personnel. All cleaning equipment and materials are provided to ensure that the ward is clean and free of contagions.
We at IMPACT strongly believe that every child deserves a life free of suffering. In 2008 we initiated the Pediatric Palliative Care program. Palliative care is focused on improving the quality of life for a terminally ill child by mitigating pain and other symptoms, while also offering social, emotional and spiritual support to children and their families. The Pain and Palliative Care Society (link) under the able guidance of Dr. Gayatri Palat provides the technical expertise for the program. Most of our counselors and nurses at IMPACT are certified in palliative care and strive to ensure the well-being of terminally ill children.
Nurses are a key component of IMPACT’s integrated CARE Team. They provide dedicated, around-the-clock specialized care to child cancer patients. Currently IMPACT supports the salaries of 12 nurses who all undergo rigorous training in pediatric oncology nursing before being allowed to administer chemotherapy to the children. In addition, we support the training program for nurses hired by the Medical Oncology Department at MNJ Institute of Oncology, as well as a Continuous Medical Education Program (CME) that all nurses are required to attend. Many of the nurses are additionally certified in palliative care.
Counselors are another integral part of the IMPACT CARE Team. They play an extremely important role in providing care to children with cancer and are key in ensuring that the children return for treatment on time. They support families while they are in the hospital and help them with various investigations and procedures. They also look after the emotional and psycho-social needs of our patients and their families. IMPACT supports the salaries of 2 full-time counselors and NATCO Trust generously provides salaries for an additional 2 counselors. All counselors are certified in palliative care with specialized training in communication with children and families faced with a potentially fatal disease.
IMPACT has been actively working with MNJ Cancer Hospital to improve their in-house laboratory services. This has resulted in a marked decrease in the number of out-sourced tests and a significant decrease in medical costs to patients. In addition, strengthening the laboratory services at MNJ has benefited both adult and pediatric patients.
The availability of medicines is key to the timely treatment of children with cancer. While many of the medications are provided free of cost by the government, there are occasions where a particular medicine is in short supply. IMPACT bridges this gap by providing whatever medication a child needs in order to ensure optimal treatment. IMPACT also provides free medications for patients from out-of state who are not covered by the Arogyasri government insurance scheme.
Treatment of children with cancer requires complex, intensive, expensive regimens administered over prolonged periods of time. At a time of their greatest need, parents and children are deprived of community and family support and are required to stay in unfamiliar places for long durations. IMPACT is actively working with the government, MNJ Hospital and various philanthropists and organizations to construct a “Home Away From Home” for patients and their families. We are confident that this will significantly improve the care we can offer to children.
Consistently providing nutritious, hot meals to patients and their families is a critical component of the IMPACT ecosystem of care.
Blood products are an essential but expensive part of cancer treatment. On average, a family can expect to spend 30,000 to 50,000 rupees on blood alone. In 2008 IMPACT began partnering with local blood banks in a concerted effort to provide free blood products to all its patients. Today most families of children with cancer no longer need to buy blood.
One of the main causes of treatment abandonment is the inability of children and families to afford the costs of frequent visits to the hospital. At IMPACT we believe that this is a readily surmountable obstacle to care. We now provide financial assistance for transportation costs for needy children and their parents.