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Saturday, May 9, 2009

TB hits PGI emergency doctors


CHANDIGARH: A mere sneeze in over-crowded emergency wards of hospitals could leave you, or your doctor, infected. In a frightening revelation, 12 of the 60 doctors posted in the emergency of region’s premier institute -- PGIMER -- during the past two years have been infected with tuberculosis. And if medicos run such high risk of infections, it’s not hard to imagine what patients -- who’re already immunosuppressed -- are exposed to in buzzing corridors of PGI.

With the issue raising concern among health workers, a draft prepared to redesign hospitals has been submitted to the Centre. ‘‘In the recent past, we’ve seen four to five doctors getting infected with TB every year,’’ said head of pulmonary department SK Jindal. He added healthcare staff was two to three times more vulnerable to the disease than the general population, which runs a 0.5% risk of getting it.

‘‘Twelve residents -- primarily from transplant surgery, neurosurgery, gastroenterology surgery and medicine departments -- have been infected with TB of lungs and extra pulmonary (bone and spine). But the administration has been slow to act,’’ said Prabhu, the president of resident doctors’ body.

‘‘We have sent a proposal to Union government under Revised National TB Control Programme to redesign hospitals in a way that there is proper ventilation and overcrowding is avoided,’ Jindal said.

A far cry from the tentative arrangements are untidy beds in PGI emergency that are cramped together, with not even two-foot distance between two cots. Not only is there no patient-isolation room for those infected with air-borne ailments, but the huge ward is kept ‘hygienic’ by merely six exhaust fans, that whirl tirelessly to pump out bad air. Ironically, these six exhausts are the only ‘clean measure’ adopted by PGI since its inception. Despite the association of resident doctors apprising the administration about lack of essential elements, nothing has been done to provide open spaces or improve ventilation.

Tejinder Singh, who is the chief engineer at Fortis, said, ‘‘Rooms are supposed to be built in such a way that when a patient breathes out, the air is released directly out of the exhaust outlet. All patients suffering from air-borne disease are shifted to isolation ward, where adequate precautions are taken. We have a microwave filter in ACs that is regularly cleaned, etc.’’

Blaming patient inflow for lack of space, PGI’s official spokesperson Manju Wadwalkar said, ‘‘Though emergency can accommodate 30 beds, we normally have 120-150 patients admitted at a time.’’

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