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Telemedicine unit to get fresh lease of life

Ramya Kannan

The second such unit in Tamil Nadu will provide advice to smaller hospitals all over the State

— Photo: S.S. Kumar

A HOST OF BENEFITS: A telemedicine session in progress at the Government Royapettah Hospital in Chennai. This facility will soon be inaugurated at the Government General Hospital.

CHENNAI: The Government General Hospital is all set to provide a fillip to its existing, though dormant, telemedicine setup. Soon, a complete telemedicine unit will be in place, with experts from different specialities making themselves available for tele-consultations.

When it is in place, the facility will be the second such unit in the State, providing expert advice to smaller government hospitals all over the State, and involving doctors in these hospitals in continuing medical education programmes.

“Once the facility is active, it will be the largest and most comprehensive service in the State. Eventually, our intention is to have all government hospitals networked to the tertiary hospitals in the main cities and medical colleges, so that the expertise we have will be accessible even to people in remote areas,” Health Secretary V.K.Subburaj told The Hindu. The plan is to make all specialities available to all the districts and link the upgraded primary health centres to the Government General Hospital. Doctors at the hospital indicate that a telemedicine facility is already in place. It functioned for a year in the late 1990’s and then wound down after the trial period. The unit was then connected to the Wallajah Hospital. The infrastructure is in place, but will have to be updated and strengthened, linking it up to the Government Royapettah Hospital and other centres. “We want to make it more effective overall,” Mr. Subburaj said.

The first centre established at the Government Royapettah Hospital has been connected with six nodal centres in as many health unit districts: Tiruvallur, Tiruvannamalai, Udhagamandalam, Krishnagiri, Kancheepuram and Ramanathapuram. The Rs.2.72-crore project was being run as a collaboration between the State and Central Departments of Health and Information Technology, said S.M. Chandramohan, head, surgical gastroenterology, Government General Hospital, who also launched the Royapettah project. He has recently been appointed to serve as nodal officer for the government hospital’s telemedicine facility. At a recent meeting, the work being done by the Government Royapettah Hospital’s telemedicine unit was lauded by one of the collaborators of the project: the Directorate of Information Technology at the Centre.

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