“We are not against setting up a paediatric super specialty hospital but Anna Centenary Library should not be disturbed for this purpose”

The choice of the Anna Centenary Library building to host a new paediatric super specialty institute has evoked mixed responses from the medical community as well.

While the argument for the move has been the pressing need for more super specialty paediatric facilities in the State, which currently has only one exclusive unit, there have been several arguments against the choice of venue. Articulated by medical professionals, these views take into consideration questions such as the feasibility of conversion, the costs that the State will run up to convert the existing library into a state-of-the-art hospital. Alternatively, some doctors have suggested that the funds could have been used to strengthen existing facilities or build anew from scratch.

“We are not against setting up a paediatric super specialty hospital. It is necessary to take care of the large volume of patients in the State. However, the Anna Centenary Library should not be disturbed for this purpose,” says G.R. Ravindranath, general secretary, Government Doctors Association for Social Equality (DASE). DASE has also recommended that the new paediatric unit be set up at the Tambaram government hospital, where adequate space is available. Tambaram as the southern gateway to Chennai, will also be easily accessible, he added.

A retired director of the Institute of Child Health pointed out that a paediatric block was started in Stanley Government Hospital about 3 decades ago, but had not been developed into a strong super specialty unit. Precious State funds could be spent on expanding and equipping this unit situated in North Chennai and adequately supported by a full-fledged hospital.

Super specialty unit in south

Other doctors have suggested that a better idea would be to set up a super specialty unit in the south of the State, instead of setting up another super specialty unit in the city itself. Justifying the need to set up yet another super specialty unit within roughly eight kilometres of each other (Egmore –Kotturpuram) would be difficult, they added. On the other hand, locating a paediatric super specialty unit in the south – Madurai and Tiruchi – would make tremendous sense. It would serve the southern region, and obviate the need for people to travel all the way to Chennai for specialised care.

Currently, the Institute of Child Health and the Hospital for Women and Children, Egmore, is the only such super specialty paediatric hospital in the public sector for the entire State. It has a bed strength of just over 530 and about 30 specialties. The out patient strength every day is about 2500 children.

P. Ramachandran, former director, ICH, says a children's unit would have to be designed to provide adequate spacing between beds, space for mothers, and play areas for the children. “Mother and child-friendly hospital designs should be incorporated right at the time of planning,” he adds. Attention would have to be paid to setting up dedicated intensive care units for different specialties.

Former head of the department of neonatology at ICH, Meer Mustafa Hussain says the felt need now is for a full-fledged Institute of Neo Natology. This would go a long way in helping very sick infants, and also bringing down the infant mortality in the State substantially. “A lot of babies who are delivered outside are brought in very sick to the ICH, which is now over crowded. A specialised unit would help tremendously in addressing this issue,” he explains.

V. Kanagasabai, dean, Madras Medical College, takes the view that the new proposed paediatric super specialty hospital is the need of the hour, considering space crunch at the existing unit, the 60-year-old ICH.

The State will get into the planning phase to discuss the restructuring of the new institution this week, according to sources. Teams of doctors and medical administrators, charged with the task of guiding the conversion of the building on Anna Salai originally intended to be a Secretariat into a hospital, have completed tours of other medical institutions in the country, The Hindu has been informed.