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Are all ventilators at Mumbai’s JJ Hospital working?

Ventilators are lifesaving machines because the machines provide mechanical breathing assistance to patients in critical condition.

mumbai Updated: Sep 04, 2017 08:50 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,ventilators,JJ hospital
Public health activists expressed concern over this state of affairs at a medical facility that treats more than five lakh patients every year.(File)

One out of five ventilators at Sir JJ Hospital — the largest government-run medical facility in the state — are defunct or temporarily dysfunctional. Ventilators are lifesaving machines because the machines provide mechanical breathing assistance to patients in critical condition.

Responding to a query by a citizen under Right to Information (RTI) Act, four major departments of the hospital — Medicine, General Surgery, Cardiology and Paediatrics, revealed that of the 69 ventilators in seven wards, seven are currently not working and eight have been condemned to be scrapped because they cannot be repaired.

Public health activists expressed concern over this state of affairs at a medical facility that treats more than five lakh patients every year.

“Behind every absent ventilator, one critical patient suffers because the family is forced to check for other private or civic hospital and in such cases, every minute wasted can cost lives. Moreover, a sentinel centre such as JJ Hospital, which treats critical cases from across the state, having such lackadaisical approach towards life-saving machines is not at all accepted,” said Chetan Kothari, who asked for the information through a RTI application.

Dr T P Lahane, dean of Sir JJ Hospital, denied claims that the ventilators are not functioning. “Kothari’s RTI revealed the number of old ventilators, which were brought in 2001. The data is maintained because the ventilators have not been officially discarded yet,” he said. Dr Lahane said they have recently purchased five ventilators and in all they have 52 functioning high-quality devices.

Kothari said the hospital has not revealed the period during which the ventilators were unavailable. The hospital also didn’t reveal how many patients have been turned away owing to the non-availability of the life-saving machines, adding that the official data of such patients is not maintained by the hospital.

Abhijeet More, co-convener of Jan Aarogya Abhiyan, a conglomerate of Non-Government Organisations working on public health issues, said, “It’s important to check when these ventilators stopped working, and the hospital is clearly trying to hide that data. Patients of tertiary care public hospitals, commonly, belong to weaker economic sections and non-availability of ventilators means they have to take the patients to private hospitals,” said More, who added the average cost of a bed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a private hospital is about Rs7000-10,000 a day.

Other public hospitals are also struggling with broken equipment in their ICUs. In 2016, information collected by citizens through RTI queries revealed that about 20 of the 104 ventilators at Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Sion, BYL Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central, Dr R N Cooper Hospital, Vile Parle, and Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Hospital, Jogeshwari, were not in use. The hospitals had revealed that they had to turn away about 3000 critical patients in a year to other medical facilities due to non-availability of ventilators.

Sir J J Hospital did not see the dysfunctional and defunct ventilators as a major problem. The medicine department, having four non-functional ventilators out of the total 15 said that the number of available ventilators is enough to meet the current demand. “On an average, 10-12 patients a day are on the ventilator. The number of ventilators is enough as per the bed strength as present,” said department head.

But public health activists said hospitals should be prepared for mass casualties from seasonal diseases and accidents. “These important issues should have been resolved before the monsoon because the need for ventilator due to dengue or other seasonal ailments multiplies two or three fold. Also if there is a mass tragedy in or around Mumbai, JJ Hospital will need to play an important role in treatment of patients and non-availability of ventilators can cause loss of lives,” said More.

First Published: Sep 04, 2017 08:49 IST