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Long waiting list for cardiac surgeries

R. Sujatha

— Photo: R. Ragu

ON TENTERHOOKS: A group of children with congenital heart anomalies at the Government Children’s Hospital, Egmore.

CHENNAI: In the pre-operative ward of the Cardiac Surgery Department of Government Children’s Hospital, Egmore, at least 50 children are waiting for their surgery at any given time. Ten times that number awaits their turn as outpatients, according to doctors.

With more awareness about congenital heart anomalies and a regular screening programme for newborns, the number of children being referred to the tertiary care hospital has increased. But, it does not have the capacity to handle such volume.

For best results, children with congenital anomalies should be treated within a month of birth. Recently, the hospital performed a surgery on a 40-day-old infant weighing 1.5 kg.

“The challenge is to perform the surgery within three weeks of birth,” says cardiac surgeon P. Moorthy. “Last year we referred at least 1,000 children to other hospitals, which are part of the public-private programme to treat such children.”

The department has two operation theatres where one major and one minor surgery are performed everyday. A major surgery could involve putting the child on a heart-lung machine and last four hours. It may take at least two hours for a minor surgery.

In the pre-operative ward, children stay with their mothers. Five-year-old Swati, whose father is a labourer, came from Andaman Island with her parents and grandparents to Madurai. The Government Hospital there referred her here. Swati has been waiting for the surgery for two months now. Her grandparents returned to the Andamans when they realised that it would be a while before surgery is performed.

Dr. Moorthy, who has four surgeons to assist him, says in public sector the hospital at Egmore is the only tertiary care centre. It is also a training centre for postgraduate students. The department recently received Rs.80 lakh from the State government to upgrade its facilities. “We have been suggesting that a centre be opened in Madurai too, now that there are more trained surgeons,” says Dr. Moorthy.

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