The centre faces severe staff shortage, doctors rue lack of cleanliness

Set in isolation in Moodushedde, the 58-year-old District Tuberculosis sanatorium which shows signs of a once-bustling past, now struggles for relevance.

Though modern medical techniques – ensuring faster recuperation and discarding isolation – has led to a reduced occupancy of around 45 per cent in the 100-bed centre, doctors say the centre is critical in the fight against the disease.

“Many poor patients, suffering from drug allergy, complications or malnutrition, stay here for weeks to recuperate,” said Dr. Vidya, doctor and medical in-charge at the centre.

However, it seems destined for obsolescence, with official apathy and staff shortage severely crippling its functioning.

Of the four medical posts sanctioned, only two are filled – a general medical doctor and one surgeon – with the post of TB specialist, surprisingly, remaining vacant. “One doctor does day shift and the other night shift. If one takes leave, the other has to work 24 hours. And if there is a long leave, the doctor has to work till the other returns,” she said.

In all, out of 50 people needed to run the sanatorium, only 22 have been deputed. The severest shortages lie in office clerical staff – all six posts are vacant – and among Group D workers – just 9 out of 29 posts filled. Even the post of pharmacist remains unfilled.

This means that the doctors and nurses have to procure medicines, order food supplies, handle accounts and tax filing, among others. “After the LPG cylinder was cut, we had to pay Rs. 33,000 from our pockets to ensure that the gas connection is not cut here. It took six months for the government to respond to this need,” said Dr. Vidya.

Hygiene concerns

The purpose of the isolation at the sanatorium was to ensure clean air and space to the patients, who often come with severe breathing problems.

However, with no maintenance allowance in more than a decade and shortage of cleaners, mould growth on walls and dust accumulation on roofs has an adverse impact on patients, said a nurse there.

Attempts to revive

In 2007, there was a proposal to convert the sanatorium into a General Hospital, which was brought up by Health Minister U.T. Khader recently.

Doctors there, however, express reservation on the status of the TB programme.

“Some days, we have around 70 patients here. If a general hospital comes up, the TB ward will be allocated only a handful of beds, and that won’t be enough,” said Dr. Vidya.

She suggests that the proposed MDR (Multi-Drug Resistant) TB treatment facility at District Wenlock Hospital be instead integrated into the sanatorium.

Despite agreeing that the isolation of the sanatorium would be conducive for an MDR centre, an official at the District Tuberculosis Office said: “Though it is more congested at Wenlock, TB patients here can receive better treatment from the plethora of government and private doctors there.”