More than six years after the July 11, 2006 train blasts that took place along the Western suburban railway line, not a single hospital is equipped to handle severe trauma cases.
In case of an emergency, the government personnel rely on the smaller civic hospitals such as Bhabha Hospital, Bandra, Cooper Hospital, Vile Parle among others which do not even have facilities like CT scan and MRI, necessary for diagnosing injuries such as head injuries before surgeons can work on the patient. During the 2006 train blasts for instance, most of the critical patients landed up in Sion Hospital.
According to civic officials, only three of the 16 peripheral hospitals in the city, namely Bhagwati Hospital, Borivali, Rajawadi Hospital, Ghatkopar, and VN Desai Hospital, Santacruz have CT scan facility. Only two of these hospitals have MRI facility namely Shatabdi Hospital, Govandi and Shatabdi Hospital, Kandivali which is yet to open to public.
"We can handle any kind of poly trauma cases. Our biggest concern is patients coming with head injuries which require neurosurgeons and investigations such as CT scan. Even the patients with injuries on particular organs such as kidney, liver, or heart need to be shifted to tertiary hospitals," said Dr Seema Malik, chief medical superintendent, peripheral hospitals, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Experts said that the infrastructure in the peripheral hospitals in Mumbai suburbs is not enough to handle crisis situations. "While south Mumbai has four major general hospitals, the eastern and western suburbs have none. They act like first aid centres and patients have to be shifted to major hospital which leads to delay in treatment," said Pankaj Joshi, executive director, Urban Design Research Institute. The four major public hospitals in the city are JJ Hospital, Byculla, KEM Hospital, Parel, Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central and Sion Hospital.
"In countries abroad, some highly sophisticated hospitals which can deal with emergencies and disasters are set up. These will have certain kind of equipments available such as MRI and CT scans machines, and doctors of certain specialties only meant to handle trauma cases," said Ravi Sinha, professor of civil engineering, Indian Institute of Technology who is a disaster management expert.
Another problem is the unavailability of well-equipped ambulances. "In Mumbai, majority of these ambulances are just transporting vehicles. They should have a paramedical staff oxygen supply, ventilator but not many have it. Abroad patients are revived by Cadiopulmonary resuscitation in ambulances, but that does not happen here," added Joshi.
With each terror attack bringing in a new challenge for the city, doctors said that we are far behind. "There is a need for authorities to now identify man-made as well as natural disasters and develop a disaster management plan accordingly. Especially, now there is a need to look at biological and chemical warfare and keep antidotes available with hospitals," said Dr Sanjay Oak, ex-director of major civic hospitals.
Experts said that mock drills should be held regularly to increase preparedness. "We have at least a mock drill annually to train our staff to handle such emergencies. We videograph the mock drill and then view it to see how better could it be managed," said Joy Chakraborty, director administration, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim.