R. Sujatha

"Even vacancies in city hospitals have not been filled" "We can prevent complications with nonpharmacological mode of treatment"

CHENNAI: At least half of the 12 dieticians posts in government hospitals across the State are lying vacant. Neither are all the six appointed dieticians on the job. Some have gone on long leave and have not been replaced. Even the vacancies in the city hospitals have not been filled, according to sources in the hospitals.

"Dieticians work to prevent complications. If a patient does not get enough nutrition the wound will not heal. And this is where a dietician's role is important," a senior nutritionist pointed out.

Nutritionists/dieticians with a qualifying bachelor's or master's degree and the Indian Dietetics Association's certification are appointed in the government hospitals through Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation. Dieticians in government hospitals are paid better and also given the status of a gazetted officer and of an assistant civil surgeon--- though they are considered a year junior.

At the Government General Hospital, which admitted close to 25.77 lakh patients last year, three nutritionists have been appointed one each in the kitchen, the nephrology and the diabetology departments.

Dietician posts have been sanctioned for hospitals attached to Stanley Medical College, Kilpauk Medical College, Institute of Child Health and Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Egmore but sources say many of these vacancies have not been filled.

Dieticians have not represented their case to the government for want of support. They welcome the appointment of dieticians for the diabetology and nephrology department but even here the people they counsel come for treatment at the late stages of the disease.

"Dieticians can provide preventive care. We can prevent complications with non-pharmacological mode of treatment. With dietary and nutritional counselling you can bring down (the patient's problem areas) to at least near normal," says a dietician with many years of clinical experience.

While the government has overlooked an important area of preventive aspect of health the Tamil Nadu State AIDS Control Society has shown the way by appointing two dieticians to counsel patients receiving anti-retroviral therapy in government hospitals.

Sources say the government could follow the example set by TANSACS.