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Thursday, March 26, 2009

1,000 surgeries performed at Plastic Surgery Department Stanley hospital in 2008

R. Sujatha
“Lack of trained personnel and specialised centres major hurdle in providing medical care across the State”

On way to recovery: A patient under treatment at the Plastics Surgery Department of Government Stanley Hospital.
CHENNAI: Government Stanley Hospital’s Institute for Research and Rehabilitation of Hand and Department of Plastic Surgery performed 1,000 surgeries in 2008. Though this is a record for the hospital, the institute’s surgeons say that an equal, if not more, number of patients need such medical attention across the State.
But lack of trained personnel and specialised centres are proving to be hurdles.
Substantiating their case for offering such treatment across the State, the surgeons cite the case of G. Dhanalakshmi (27) of Karur, whose right hand was injured in an accident last August.
The accident occurred when her wrist was caught in the winding machine that she was working on. She was treated at a private hospital in Karur but that could not restore the function of her wrist and fingers. The District Collector, to whom she submitted a petition against the owner of the company, recommended her case to Stanley Hospital’s Plastic Surgery Department.
With two children aged 9 and 7 years and a husband who is a construction labourer, she is hard up for money. Her husband cooks and attends to the children when she comes to Chennai for therapy. “Each month the trip costs me Rs.500. I used to earn Rs.500 a week before the accident,” says Dhanalakshmi, who lost her job after the accident.
Ten-year-old Lakshmi of Puducherry has been coming to the hospital for nine years to get treatment for a birth injury (brachial plexus) that rendered her left arm “useless”. Following a surgery at the hospital she is now able to partially lift her arm. The youngster would have to undergo at least six to seven more surgeries before she could regain 30 per cent of its function, doctors say.
A simple fracture after a fall from a bicycle three decades ago left Balamurugan of Ariyalur disabled as the fracture was treated locally. Now he comes to Stanley hospital for treatment. His psychosomatic problems and a dearth of professional counselling had come in the way of his taking regular treatment, doctors at the hospital say.
In contrast, several others who belong to the city and its suburbs and have suffered severe injuries have fared better. A couple of three-year-old children who lost their toes in road accidents are healing well because they were referred early. Likewise, P. Suresh of Padi, who was injured in a factory accident returned to work three months after treatment. Now all he requires is treatment for scars on the skin. P. Sundaram, whose hand was injured after being punched in at a printing press in 2002, has regained much of the hand’s function and taken up a new job.
Video conferencing
Plastic, hand and reconstructive micro surgeon R. Krishnamoorthy says that 77 per cent of the loss of function of hand is due to trauma. Also, 25 per cent of young workers in the 15-24 years age group are the most affected and a fifth of them suffer permanent damage. Given that an estimated 5.86 per lakh persons across the State face such trauma, about 3,600 prostheses are needed to be bought every year.
Every day the department receives 25 to 30 fresh cases of injuries, Dr. Krishnamoorthy says. In its 35 years of existence, the Plastic Surgery Department has treated about three lakh people. But when the patients, particularly those from outside the city, delay their visit to the hospital, it impacts their productive life.
Had people such as Balamurugan, Lakshmi and Dhanalakshmi been referred early, they would have fared better. Setting up a video conferencing system between the tertiary hospital and other centres would ensure more people are treated early and made able to return to work, he says.

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