To develop an exclusive tertiary-care centre

The State government has revived the Kerala Heart Foundation (KHF) as an independent entity, revoking a decision taken by the previous government in 2009 to merge it with the Indian Institute of Diabetes (IID).

The first governing body meeting of the foundation, chaired by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, here a few days ago decided to strengthen the foundation and pursue its activities so that it can eventually be developed as an exclusive tertiary-care centre in the public sector for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

The Health Secretary and the Head of the Department of Cardiology of the Government Medical College Hospital here participated.

The foundation was a Rs.30-crore project launched in 2003, with the Department of Cardiology of the medical college hospital as the base unit, to provide tertiary-level cardiac care, to promote preventive cardiology activities in the community, and to develop it as a research institute.

The government had sanctioned Rs.1 crore as corpus for the project and allocated 3.7 acres of land on the medical college campus. Though the foundation began its activities by conducting preventive cardiology camps in the community, the heart institute project failed to take off in the manner in which it was envisaged. The project was just bumping along as funds were meagre, apart from the annual grants from the Directorate of Medical Education. The foundation was allowed to utilise Plan funds of Rs.2.4 crore to strengthen the Department of Cardiology by augmenting treatment facilities.

The foundation thus bought several sophisticated and modern equipment for the department. It set up a cardiac electrophysiology unit, a fluoroscope machine, state-of-the-art ventilators, pacing units, defibrillators, a treadmill, a Holter unit, and a bedside echocardiography unit which immensely benefited patients from the economically weaker sections of society.

“Though the project for the heart institute failed, the intensive care facilities at the cardiology department were enhanced to the extent that today we have one of the best intensive care units in the State. But there were repeated audit objections about the KHF project and in 2009, the government decided to merge it and the IID as the goals of both institutions were the same,” Sunita Viswanathan, Professor and Head of the Department, said.

The decision had not materialised as a government order till date. Technically, the KHF continued to exist, but there was no more funding. “But we were self-sustaining as we had a certain amount of autonomy regarding the high-end equipment we purchased through the KHF, utilising which, we have been generating funds to the tune of Rs.13 lakh annually,” Dr. Viswanathan said.

Better funding

Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan said the government had decided to revive the KHF so that additional Central funds could be generated for developing it and a good cardiac care and research institute could eventually be set up.

The MCH campus already had an excellent cardiac care and research institute in Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) and doubts had been raised whether another cardiac research centre on the campus was really warranted.

“The SCTIMST is basically a research institute and while it is catering to the clinical side, they also have a huge waiting list of patients. We need a good tertiary-care cardiac facility and research centre because it is our medical colleges which bear the burden of the caseload in the community,” Mr. Sadanandan said.