Shortage of medical officers ails GH casualty ward

R. Sujatha

Often treatment delayed during `golden hour' due to lack of immediate attention

CHENNAI: The Government General Hospital in the city, which sees a large patient turnout even in the dead of night, is suffering from a shortage of medical officers in the casualty ward.

The premier tertiary care facility of the State Health department, which puts emphasis on the golden hour principle (taking a critically injured patient to hospital within an hour of an accident) has only one chief medical officer, one house surgeon, a few nurses and a few ward boys at any given time.

Medical officers often do `double duty' working for more than the stipulated work hours. A casualty medical officer alone is authorised to sign the registry in which entries are made. The officer must not only make the entries but also attend to the large number of patients. The officer is also expected to attend court when served with summons to present evidence in medico-legal cases.

Sources in the hospital say medical officers who are posted there seek transfer to their parent department because of the work pressure. The casualty department is the first stop for a victim brought into the hospital. Though the Government is committed to ensuring quality treatment during the `golden hour' often treatment is delayed because of lack of immediate attention. Senior professionals and former deans have suggested that new entrants in the medical services be posted to casualty to gain experience.

Medical professionals note that delay in ensuring treatment would seriously impact the quality of life and recovery of the patient.

At all government hospitals, the details of a patient and accident are manually entered in a register and the duty medical officer signs the book.

When contacted, Health department officials and the Health Minister said there was no shortage of doctors and soon more doctors were to be recruited.