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Patients travel 18 km for a blood test

Shastry V. Mallady
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No laboratory to do blood test for tuberculosis, cholera, chickenpox, mumps and measles

At a time when healthcare is coming to the doorstep, patients coming to this Government Hospital, opened by former Chief Minister K. Kamaraj in 1960, have to travel 18 kilometres for a blood test.

The Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine at Thoppur near here, also known as Infectious Diseases Hospital, is looking for better treatment by the government since virtually all basic amenities required for treating hundreds of patients are missing. What is of deep concern for the hospital staff is that there is no laboratory to do blood test for patients who get admitted with various diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, chickenpox, mumps and measles.

“Thoppur-Austinpatti Hospital is an important centre for infectious diseases, but somehow this is being neglected. Things are so bad that our patients who require a blood test have to go all the way to Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH) in Madurai which is 18 kilometres away,” the hospital staff told The Hindu on Thursday.

The 100-acre hospital has three wings — tuberculosis sanatorium, infectious diseases ward, and cholera centre. A senior doctor in the GRH admitted that the Thoppur Hospital was in dire straits.

“Here, we get HIV positive cases and TB patients. All of them will be in-patients for long-duration treatment. For routine blood tests to check urea, sugar and cholesterol, they have to go all the way to the GRH which takes lot of time and pain,” a hospital employee said.

An appeal has been made to the Health Department and senior health officials in Madurai to pay immediate attention to this requirement and establish a blood test laboratory. Right now, it has a very minimal equipment to test sputum for tuberculosis diagnosis.

GRH Dean N. Mohan who visited the Thoppur-Austinpatti Hospital on Saturday was explained about the urgent requirements with regard to civil, electrical and medical infrastructure. Another hardship faced by the hospital is lack of vehicle for its patients’ needs. “There are several patients who get admitted with multi-drug resistant cases, and for them we have to take the opinion of expert doctors in the GRH. So, we need a vehicle at our disposal,” a doctor said.

On an average, there will be 140 in-patients every day in the TB ward of Thoppur Hospital while there will be another 40 patients in the cholera wing.

The list of urgent needs submitted to the State government — Directorate of Medical Education — include well-equipped kitchen to prepare dietary food for in-patients, especially for tuberculosis patients since it had to be nutritious and hygienic.

There is no proper lighting facility in this vast campus with no compound wall. Hence, the hospital staff had made a plea for electrical lights. “We have a complaint to make against the Thoppur panchayat. There is no cooperation from them at all even though ours is a government hospital,” they said. To provide shade inside the premises, the hospital received 500 saplings from the Forest Department recently.

“There has to be a complete makeover for this 52-year-old hospital, be it the kitchen, toilets or drinking water and drainage facilities. We were told that that Rs.5 lakh has been earmarked to get laboratory equipment for blood tests but it is yet to reach us. Our plea to the higher authorities is to utilise the fund immediately,” the staff had appealed.

Meanwhile, senior officials in the GRH have said that all steps will be taken to improve the facilities at Thoppur. According to them, Rs.25 lakh was sanctioned for civil works and Rs.17 lakh for electrical works. The Public Works Department is expected to start the work shortly.

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