Round-table meet discusses support system for burn surivors

Project aims to codify best practices for care and rehabilitation

February 25, 2017 11:24 pm | Updated 11:24 pm IST

Mumbai: The International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), a Chennai-based non-profit organisation backed by the British Deputy High Commission, Mumbai, had organised a round-table meeting here on Saturday to address the need for a holistic support system for women burn survivors in Maharashtra.

The round-table discussion aimed to involve various actors, such as civil society organisations, and medical, legal and police professionals to evolve an informed set of responses to the treatment of burn victims and their rehabilitation.

Expanding scope

Through its flagship project Vidiyal, PCVC offers a range of services to women burn survivors in their physical, psychological and social rehabilitation. The organisation first started work in the Kilpauk Hospital in Chennai, one of the first hospitals to have a dedicated burns ward. Started in 2003, the project involves counselling, emergency medicines and care, including providing attendants or food. After the person is discharged, the project looks at rehabilitation of the survivor through psychological and physiological therapies, legal assistance, providing medicines and transport to the hospital for follow-ups. PCVC has also started a recovery and healing centre for burn survivors.

Speaking before the commencement of the round table, Rashmi Singh, the programmes director for PCVC, said the British Deputy High Commission in Chennai initially extended support so that the PCVC model of care for burn victims and rehabilitation could be leveraged further and taken to other States. “There are 91,000 burn victims in India every year,” she said.

Policy changes

“Going beyond Tamil Nadu, there are existing support services for burn victims already working. We don’t know if our model is the best one, so the aim was to reach out to foundations, researchers and individuals involved in the field so that existing best practices can be promoted,” she added. The project includes discussions in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Telangana and Delhi.

The purpose of the project, Ms. Singh said, is to come up with collective actions that can be codified as best practices at the State level. PCVC is also working on a new handbook for practitioners who support such women survivors. More crucially, she said, the project also hopes to raise voices and support from these various States to drive policy changes. “The recent disability rights bill that was passed includes provisions for survivors of acid attacks. We need to make sure that burn victims are also included,” she said. Similarly, under the Nirbhaya fund, compensation is given to victims of acid attacks once an FIR is filed, but no such provision exists for burn victims.

The Maharashtra discussion focused on research not just from Mumbai, but from hospitals and medical centres in Pune, Aurangabad and Nasik, Ms. Singh said. She said it looked at the work already being done by organisations like the Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT) and the Dilaasa crisis intervention department for women.

Standardised care model

As part of the discussion, a team from CEHAT presented some findings made from a knowledge-sharing workshop held in January. It noted that there was a general reluctance on the part of doctors to treat burn victims as many saw it as not being a rewarding field. The findings showed that while 90% of burn cases in hospitals are reported as accidents, doctors think that the patterns of the injuries show them to be more consistent with homicide and suicide. The report advocated that there should be a standardised model for medical treatment and care of victims and for the collection of medico-legal evidence, while doctors needed to be trained right from the grass-roots level. More focus should be placed on psychological support and economic empowerment of the victims, it said.

“The knowledge-sharing workshop for practitioners that the project helped facilitate in Mumbai in January 2017 threw up a number of thoughts that [Saturday’s] dialogue will build on, not only in terms of State-level policy, but also effective public-private-civil-society partnerships in Maharashtra,” said Colin Wells, deputy head of mission for the British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai.

He noted that the Government of India’s National Programme for the Prevention and Management of Burn Injuries was looking to improve burn-care infrastructure across the country and that under the 12th Five Year Plan, burn units have been approved in various hospitals in Maharashtra, including in Dhule district and in Pune. “We hope that [Saturday’s] discussion can come up with ideas on how to embed psycho-social support into these projects,” he said. The Maharashtra discussion, he added, would feed into a national meeting planned in March.

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