Paediatric care received a shot in the arm on Wednesday with the opening of the Narayana Health (NH) Society for Rehabilitation of Crippled Children (SRCC) Hospital, a 207-bed facility for children at Haji Ali. The hospital began offering in-patient services last month. While NHSRCC is the third dedicated children’s hospital in the city after Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children and Surya Childcare, medical experts say more such facilities are needed.
Dr. Devi Shetty of Narayana Health, which is managing the hospital, said, “Care for children is dramatically different than that for adults. From staff to medical instruments and costs, there is a huge difference. For example, cardiac surgeries cost twice as much for children. All States are short of paediatric beds, as such dedicated facilities are not always financially viable.”
Despite this, paediatric care facilities appear to be increasing in the city: there is talk of a pharma major planning a 100-bed children’s hospital in Thane, and a 120-bed hospital by Surya Childcare will be ready in six months in the eastern suburbs. Dr. B.S. Avasthi of Surya Childcare said, “A regular multi-specialty hospital would generally have paediatric care as a specialty. For a paediatric-only facility, every aspect is planned for children. Existing facilities aren’t enough for a city with a population like Mumbai.”
He said the city needs around 600 more Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) beds, and this shortfall eventually leads to an increase in infant mortality. “Good paediatric hospitals will help in bringing down the rates of infant mortality (IMR) and under-five mortality (U5MR). The recently-conducted National Family Health Survey showed that India’s IMR is 41 and its U5MR is 50.”
Experts say an estimated 25% to 30% of overall medical care is paediatric. However, 80% of all paediatric care is acute and therefore expensive, besides being more labour intensive. Procedures, too, are time-consuming. Most children’s hospitals are designed to keep a child involved and calm with bright decor and play areas; the sea-facing NHSRCC Hospital’s decor is marine-themed. It offers tertiary care including dentistry, nephrology and cardiac surgery.
“Paediatric care has evolved as a specialty; it can’t be squeezed into a corner of a hospital anymore,” Dr. Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO at the 500-bed Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children in Parel — the largest children’s hospital in the country — said. “We have 150 NICU beds, but this is not enough. Special attention is needed when dealing with patients aged 0-18 years.”