Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi will lay the foundation stone for Madras Medical College’s building at the erstwhile Central Prison premises on February 28, Health Minister M.R.K. Panneerselvam said here on Thursday.

The function would be part of the college’s 175th year celebrations.

Inaugurating the third International Congress of the Indian Section of the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus (ISDE) at the Government General Hospital, which is attached to the MMC, the Minister said Rs.70 crore had been allotted for the new building.

Congratulating the hospital’s Surgical Gastroenterology Department for organising the two-day surgery workshop, he said efforts would be made to upgrade the department as a centre for excellence for oesophageal diseases.

Health Secretary V.K. Subburaj said the conference served as a forum for teaching the public to avoid contracting infections that led to various gastrointestinal diseases.

It was also time to raise awareness of the need to modify lifestyles and about the health hazards of faulty food habits. “We are concentrating on food safety now,” he said.

Half the schoolchildren in the city and over 50 per cent of women working in public institutions were overweight, he said.

Every year, about 50,000 people in the State died due to cancer caused by tobacco and alcohol consumption. These statistics should be used to constantly teach the public to abstain from tobacco and alcohol, he added.

ISDE Secretary Sanjay Sharma said the organisation had 25 to 30 doctors who had specialised in complex surgeries and produced results comparable with the developed nations.

The workshop includes teleconference with experts from the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Korea, Japan, Belgium and France, for the benefit of over 300 young surgeons from across India.

Surgeries to rectify damages to the oesophagus caused by acid consumption forms an important part of the 15 surgeries being performed at the workshop.

“Until two decades ago only a handful of oesophageal surgeries were performed in government institutions but with improved technology we are able to provide poor patients a new lease of life,” said R. Surendran, the organising president.

Head of the Department and organising secretary S.M. Chandramohan, Hospital Dean J. Mohanasundaram and Director of Medical Education S. Vinayagam spoke.