No mercy for burn patients: BMC not to upgrade burn unit at Kasturba hospital

The BMC has rejected the proposal to upgrade burn unit and appoint specialist doctors at Kasturba hospital. Where will poor patients go?

No mercy for burn patients: BMC not to upgrade burn unit at Kasturba hospital
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Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

Recently there was a cylinder blast in the slums of Worli in South Mumbai and Kasturba was the nearest government hospital in the vicinity. The patients, with painful burn injuries, languished for over 40 minutes at the hospital before medical help arrived. One woman died in the meantime.

There is a Burns ward at Kasturba but no specialist doctors. The doctors are called from Nair hospital which is one and a half kilometre away. Given the heavy traffic on this stretch, it takes nearly and hour for the doctors to reach Kasturba. All this while, the patients with critical burn injuries have to writhe in unbearable pain.

The proposal for setting up a dedicated Burn ward at Kasturba with specialist doctors, paramedics and required equipment was made, but after sitting over it for several years, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has finally rejected it.

Interestingly, the proposal for upgradation of the burns unit had been approved by the Municipal Commissioner. Certainly, funds cannot be the limiting factor for the country’s richest civic body, the BMC.

Treatment of burn injuries is quite expensive and let alone the poor, not even the lower middle-class people can quite afford it at private hospitals. The only hope for the lower income groups is the government run hospitals where they can get quality treatment free of cost, the ‘golden hour ‘ of patients coming to the unit for treatment.

Dr. Amresh Baliarsingh, former HoD of Plastic Surgery department at Nair hospital said, “Being the only civic hospital in the city for patients with burns, we realised the dire need of experts in medicine and infrastructure for management of burns patients. Thus the proposal was sent to the BMC for upgradation of the Burns unit in Kasturba. The doctors in Nair Hospital are busy handling other patients and it takes time for them to reach Kasturba.”

The burns unit at any hospital cannot be managed with a skeletal staff and poor infrastructure, he says, adding that in 2017 the then BMC Commissioner had approved the proposal.

Dr. Baliarsingh added, “The patients from various parts of the city and state are brought in due to its specialisation and management of patients. The poor section of society cannot afford big multi-specialty hospitals. It is a very expensive treatment. But the doctors and other specialists have to be called in from Nair hospital. Therefore, I urged in the proposal to keep medical experts or specialists in Kasturba on 24x7 basis so that patients instantly get the specialised medical attention. The delay in reaching from Nair to Kasturba may cost the life of serious patients.”


A source in Kasturba hospital said there was no ventilator in the Burns unit as there is no one to manage the ventilator. Neither is there an anaesthetist nor a physiotherapist.

Dr. Kalpana Mehta, Dean, Nair Hospital, agreed the burns unit at Kasturba must be upgraded.

Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Western Suburbs), said, “As of now, we have adequate doctors and adequate infrastructure to manage the beds and patients. When the demand goes up we will scale up capacity. Now it is as per the norms of the Medical Council of India.”

However, Dr. Baliarsing underlined that the issue not only about adhering to MCI guidelines. It is about providing facilities to the needy patients.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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