In an effort to reduce IMR, government will launch programme on April 1

The Department of Health and Family Welfare plans to screen all newborns for cardiac defects in its effort to reduce Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). The program is expected to start from April 1.

On Wednesday, the Health Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fortis Malar Hospital and Aishwarya Trust in Chennai. Through this MoU, they will offer super specialty care in the field of paediatric cardiology at the Rajiv Gandhi Women and Child Hospital.

Speaking to The Hindu on the project, Director of Health and Family Welfare K.V. Raman said it is suspected that around one per cent of newborns have cardiac defects; however, there is no concrete data. “By launching this program, we will not only be able to assess the number of children with cardiac problems, but also provide interventional care for those that require it.”

The entire process, both the screening and the interventional surgery, will be free for the patients. Initially, those requiring surgery would be sent to Chennai and the surgery taken care of by K.R. Balakrishnan, Chief Consultant Cardiothoracic surgeon for Fortis Malar Hospital, and his team. The funding would be provided by the Aishwarya Trust and possibly from schemes offered by the Puducherry government.

The Rajiv Gandhi Women and Child Hospital alone sees around 1,400 deliveries every month, and the outpatient department (OPD) would conduct an echo cardiogram for all these babies. In addition, people can also bring in their babies for screening. The OPD is expected to start by April 1, he said.

In the beginning, the screenings would take place only on Mondays and Thursdays, but depending on the rush, it might be increased. For the screening, two doctors from Dr. Balakrishnan’s team would visit the Women and Child Hospital. In the second phase of the project, the surgeries would be performed at Puducherry itself, Mr. Raman said.

Further MoUs

On the future plans of the Department, Dr. Raman said that they were on the verge of signing a MoU with Abbott India and Abbott Lifecare to provide screening for hypertension, obesity, dyslipidemia (blood cholesterol and fats) and thyroid.

This program would go hand-in-hand with the diabetes program the department started with Novo Nordisk Education Foundation. In the new program, people would be screened for most common lifestyle and non-communicable diseases.

The joint program would begin in Koodapakkam next week and the MoU will be signed in the presence of Chief Minister N. Rangasamy on March 26. The Department has already started awareness programs in the Koodapakkam area and has conducted surveys to identify persons over the age of 30, he said.

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