Udhagamandalam: Ooty, the ‘Queen of Hills’, with its verdant landscape and salubrious climate, is an ideal destination for tourists. Over 30 lakh people visit the hill station every year and the Nilgiris hills has a population of 7.11 lakh as per the 2011 census. Despite this, the hill district lacks a specialty hospital, especially one providing cardiac care.
As per data available at the National Communicable Diseases Control Department, about 16% of the adult population of the hill district suffer from hypertension, while about 10% are diabetic. Both these are high-risk groups susceptible to prime cardio related diseases.
The government headquarters hospital is the only major hospital in the district. With its origin dating back to 1829, the Ooty GH now has 421 beds, including 116 in the maternity wing. Started as an army hospital with 4 beds for the British and 10 for local people by John Sullivan, collector of Coimbatore region, the Ooty GH still lacks super specialty wards such as cardiology, neurology, nephrology, gastroenterology and plastic surgery.
Worse, the hospital lacks a general physician. The post has been lying vacant for over a year. “If there is a general physician, at least ‘thrombolysis’ could be done for cardio-related diseases. Now we are referring patients with cardio related diseases to the Coimbatore Medical College hospital,” Hiriyan Ravi Kumar, superintendent of Ooty GH, told TOI.
However, the Ooty GH is equipped with a CT and MRI scanners, besides digital X-ray, though it lacks a radiologist for the MRI scan machine. A general physician from the Coonoor government hospital visits Ooty GH twice a week.
“We send MRI scan images to Mumbai and within a couple of days we receive the reports,” said Ravi Kumar.
In 2016, the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa, considering the Nilgiris as a special case, announced upgradation of the hospital on a par with medical college hospitals under Rule no. 110 in the state assembly (under this rule, the CM or any minister can announce or bring a resolution to the assembly which can be passed without any discussion.)
All posts for specialty departments such as cardiology, neurology, nephrology, gastroenterology and plastic surgery were sanctioned too. Specialist doctors were appointed for gastroenterology and plastic surgeon were made, but they are attached to the ESI hospital in Coimbatore as Ooty does not have a super specialty hospital.
Also, against sanctioned the posts of 5 gynaecologists, the maternity wing of the hospital is managed by just one gynaecologist. Another doctor visits the hospital on a rotation basis from Erode, Coimbatore and Tirupur.
The main reason for the posts remaining vacant is that no government doctor is willing to take up an assignment in the hills, citing the weather. Unless the government takes a stern decision, the Nilgiris will remain neglected.
The Ooty GH, which stands on a 5-acre piece of land, has no space to set up buildings for super specialty wards. As per the master plan, public service buildings are restricted to one plus one floors. “We have sufficient land, but the terrain is such that buildings cannot be constructed there,” said Ravi Kumar.
As there is only one anaesthetist, against the sanctioned 7, the GH is not in a position to treat accident cases
There are quite a few private nursing homes in Ooty, but none has a catheterization laboratory to treat cardio related diseases. The nearest place for the treatment is Coimbatore, 85 km from Ooty. The ‘golden hour’ for emergency cases is lost because of the three-hour drive through the ghat section of the road.
“The Nilgiris is a hill district. Commuting to the plains is very difficult for patients, especially the elderly. Considering its local population and the floating tourist population, the government should implement the upgradation of the Ooty GH as a super specialty hospital announced under Rule 110,” said Geetha Srinivasan, social activist and convener, INTACH-Nilgiris chapter. “It is also not right on the part of the government to deny the facility to the hill people,” she said and suggested that buildings with infrastructure such as the HPF could be utilised for the purpose instead of allowing it to decay.