The School of Orthotics and Prosthetics, a unit of the Government Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in K.K. Nagar, is a picture of neglect. The school was set up with the aim of introducing orthotists and prosthetists, to assist orthopaedists by providing appliances for patients requiring them.

The overgrown bushy environs, the outdated equipment in the institute's workshops and the small number of patients who come for treatment point to the lack of attention to a very important field of therapy, say alumni.

There are two classrooms in the school with hardly any relevant equipment. Members of the Orthotics and Prosthetics Association of India allege that administrative inefficiency had resulted in poor maintenance of the school. Association secretary and alumnus N. Suresh Joshi said that for the last 15 years the institute had not recruited core faculty necessary to run the course. “As the post of bioengineer remained vacant for more than 20 years it was abolished. The posts of senior lecturer in prosthetics and senior instructor in rehabilitation have not been filled for 15 years. The post of skilled attendant has been lying vacant for seven years,” he said.

At present the school has four residential students — two men and two women. An orthotist recalled that during the 1970s and 1980s, the school was sought for its unique course. “When we left the workshop it would appear like we were coming out of a factory as there were so many of us,” the orthotist said. “Now there are only a dozen employees, many of them trained but not qualified to do the work.”

Orthotists said that patients continued to be fitted with limbs manufactured using outdated techniques at the workshop. The students are also trained on outdated equipment in a separate building and they do not have access to a good library. Although the Institute has sent its qualified orthotists for training to institutes in Orissa, they continue to languish as they cannot put to practice their skills.

Persons with disability opt for non-governmental organisations as the waiting period for a limb is long. An accident victim who got an artificial limb fitted at a private institution in the city said, “I went to the K.K. Nagar hospital where I stayed for five days but I when I realised that they would take time to develop a limb I decided to go to a private organisation.”

Alumnus K. Sanmugam said, “Tamil Nadu was the first State to start the course but while we have languished, other states which followed in our steps have done far better. Institutes in Mumbai, Kolkata and Orissa have diversified and offer Ph.D. programmes, but in Chennai it continues to be offered as a diploma course,” he said.

Recently Health department officials, including the Director of Medical Education, visited the institute. According to the officials they were conducting a “routine inspection.”

Director of the Institute R. Chinnathurai told The Hindu that the institute had sent to the government a proposal to install CAD-CAM. There was also a proposal to set up a gait laboratory. “As CAD CAM is the latest method used for developing artificial limbs, we have asked for it,” he said.


R. SujathaJune 28, 2012