“The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) at maternity centres attached to the city's Urban Health Centres (UHCs) is between 18 and 20 per 1000 babies born,” said K. C. Cheran, Corporation Health Officer. The improved facilities at the nine UHCs across the city, according to Mr. Cheran, have ensured an IMR rate that is lower than the State average of 28 and the district average of 23, besides significantly increasing the number of patients treated by the centres.

Today, most of the UHCs offer outpatient treatment, maternity care and sterilisation surgeries that are at par with private hospitals, according to the Health Officer. “All the centres are stocked with quality medicines, offer ECG and scan services, immunisation vaccinations and perform sterilisation surgeries,” he said, adding that all the services are free of cost.

Though anybody can access these treatments, it is usually the poorer sections of the society that forms the major chunk of patients at the UHCs. “Today, a person needs at least Rs.2000 to access healthcare from the private sector and most people cannot afford it.” According to him, the introduction of upgraded medicines, ECG and scan services about one and a half years ago, has brought in 2000 patients every day as against the earlier figures of 700 to 1000 patients per day. The UHCs at Subramanyapuram and Woraiyur, he said, were the busiest because the areas do not have adequate healthcare facilities.

Every month about 100 to 150 babies are born through normal deliveries at the UHCs' maternity centres, while cases with complications are directed to the GH. Under the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Scheme, women seeking anti-natal care are given Rs.12,000, in three instalments at the time of registration, delivery (at the UHC or GH) and immunisations. “To avoid middlemen, we open a bank account for every registered patient where the money is directly deposited,” said Mr. Cheran. In terms of post-natal care, Urban Health Workers of each UHC make weekly home visits for a period of 15- 30 days to check on the child and the mother.

Enlisting some of the causes of infant mortality, Mr. Cheran said suffocation at the time of birth, undetected Rh incompatibility between the parents and a malnourished and/or anaemic mother were the most common. “All babies weighing less than two kilograms at birth are classified as Low Birth Weight babies and if the weight is1500 grams or lesser, it could lead to death,” he said. However, the situation was slowly improving at most centres, according to Mr. Cheran.

While UHCs are generally perceived as facilities that are not fully utilised, the Corporation Health Officer said he has proposed the setting up of additional health centres to cater to the increasing number of patients.