Hospitals ill-prepared to treat burn victims in Kerala

Even as several persons battle burn injuries in hospitals in the aftermath of the Kannur tragedy, it has come to light that hospitals in the state are ill-prepared to deal with burn victims.

There are no burn units in district hospitals and most government medical colleges have only a plastic surgery department.

The Alappuzha Medical College doesn’t even have a plastic surgery department.

The director of Health Services has admitted that there is an acute shortage of surgeons in government hospitals.

“There is a shortage of 50 per cent surgeons. Burn care includes skin grafting, dealing with contracture and needs long-term care and isolation. It needs multi-specialty co-ordination also."

"There was a suggestion during the tenure of the last government to set up a district-level burn care unit, but it did not take off,” said Dr Kumary G. Prema, the DHS.

She said that the taluk hospitals are ill-equipped to handle burn injury cases. Among medical colleges, only Trivandrum and Kottayam medical colleges are equipped to handle burn cases, while Ernakulam General Hospital has an air-conditioned facility that can handle 12 patients at a time. In private sector, MIMS, Kozhikode and Ernakulam Medical Centre have separate burn care units.

Private hospitals are not keen on setting up a separate burn unit because they claim there are very few cases.

“All private hospitals with tertiary care facilities are in a position to handle burn cases and they can convert existing emergency care facility for burns victims if required,” said Dr J. Rajagopalan Nair, Indian Medical Association state secretary.

However, Dr Saji Mathew, a surgeon at the GH burns care unit, said that this ‘conversion’ is not feasible since burn units must have special facilities and trained staff.

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