Expressing concern that while 11 lakh patients were added, cancer killed about nine lakh persons every year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday that as part of its strategy to counter the spread of the disease, the Union government had decided to set up a National Cancer Centre, which would be linked to all regional and State level Cancer centres.

Mr. Singh was addressing a select gathering after laying the foundation stone of the Rs. 450 crore Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (HBCHRC) at Mullanpur Garibdas town of Mohali district in Punjab, on the outskirts of Chandigarh. The facility which according the Prime Minister would take four years to complete would have latest equipment, 200 doctors and 500 nurses as well as paramedical staff. It would be equipped to handle 10,000 new cases and 40,000 post treatment follow ups. Apart from radiation and chemotherapy, the facility would be able to carry out about 2500 surgeries annually. He said that excellent infrastructure, road connectivity and proximity to the Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), were the main considerations for allotting the centre to its present site, where the Punjab government donated 50 acres of land.

Mr. Singh said that the 27 regional cancer centres were already functioning under the National Cancer Control Programme of the Union government. He said that with the cooperation from various State governments cancer institutes were also being set up, while emphasis on early detection was being promoted through National Rural Health Mission. In Punjab a cancer institute would be set up in the Government medical college at Amritsar, while a cancer treatment facility would be set up in Hoshiarpur. He said that the government had already initiated the process of setting up a 12 super specialty hospital at Sangrur, which would be satellite centre of the Chandigarh based PGIMER. It would have dedicated cancer treatment wing.

Underling that reforms in the healthcare sector were a priority, the Prime Minister said that the government was committed to ensure that quality facilities at affordable prices were available to people from all walks of life. He said that emphasis was on assuring that medicines were available at cheaper rates, improvement in primary health facilities, augmentation of related infrastructure and research as well as providing modern treatment for life threatening diseases.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal expressed gratitude towards the Dr Singh, for taking personal interest in getting the Centre sanctioned for the State. He said that the Punjab government which has already launched a war on Cancer, was providing upto Rs. 1.5 lakh as monetary aid to the patients, while from January it shall launch a cashless treatment scheme. He said that with the setting up of HBCHRC along with other facilities, Punjab would soon become the destination for best treatment for cancer in the country

In his address on the occasion, MP from Anandpur Sahib constituency, Ravneet Singh Bittu, said that during his recent padyatra of the State when he covered 1500 km in 45 days, he found that while 25000 persons lost their lives during terrorism, Cancer had claimed 33000 in the last five years. He requested the Prime Minister to sanction a trace metal detection centre for Punjab, which would go a long way in early detection and treatment of cancer.