The 300-acre property of the now defunct Hindustan Photo Films in Ooty could turn into a medical college with a 300-bed multi-specialty hospital by 2020 if a proposal sent to the state health department gets the nod, director of medical education Dr A Edwin Joe said. The state will also have 300 additional MBBS seats from 2019 with a new college in Karur and increase of seats at government medical colleges in Madurai and Tirunelveli. The lack of proper healthcare facilities in Ooty forcing those in need to travel to Coimbatore and the vacant property of the HPF, which began winding down in April and whose staff are set to get the last paycheck on Saturday, prompted the directorate of medical education to seek to push for a medical college hospital. If cleared, the facility will be the first in a hilly area in the state. Some buildings on the HPF campus such as administrative block and residential quarters could be modified, officials said after an inspection. The company, inaugurated by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was once the only public-sector undertaking manufacturing films for photography, cinema, X-ray and graphic arts and supplied X-ray films to all state-run hospitals. But, since the 1990s, when digitalization of equipment began, the PSU that had more than 5000 employees began incurring losses and the downward trend ended in April.
Nilgiris is considered one of the backward districts in the health sector for various reasons including poor doctor-patient ratio, high vacancies in government hospitals and clinics. Internal reports and statistics showed high maternal mortality rate, Dr Joe indicated in his proposal. “Pregnant women in the district are shifted to Government Coimbatore medical college and hospital for C-sections. A large section of people are from tribal communities and many are hesitant to come out of the district even for life-saving therapy. The temperature variation also makes them uncomfortable,” he said. The health department is looking for strengthening southern districts like Rameswaram, but Ooty legislator R Ganesh told the government the district, swarmed by around 50,000 tourists a day, will need a multi-specialty hospital. Senior government doctors said the district was a tourist spot and visitors included VIPs from across the country and abroad. “Many times, doctors from neighboring districts are posted at Ooty as a part of the emergency management team. If we have medical college hospital it would be helpful. Also, when there is a multi-specialty hospital the doctor patient ratio will increase,” said Government doctors association president Dr K Senthil pushing for post-graduate seats, particularly Diploma in National Board.
Dr Joe said the government hoped to complete construction of Karur medical college, the state’s 23rd, by February 2019. “So, it will be ready for the inspection by the Medical Council of India in March.” In March 2016, the government proposed a building at a cost of ₹229.46 crore on 30.27 acres at Sanapiratti in Karur with chief minister J Jayalalithaa laying the foundation, but work was delayed after the Madras high court was moved. The 368-bed government hospital, with more than 2500 out-patients and departments such as general surgery, general medicine, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology and anaesthesia, will be attached to the medical college. The number of seats in Rajaji Government General Hospital, Madurai and Tirunelveli Government Hospital too will go up. “We have the largest number of government medical colleges in the country. The state policy is to have at least one medical college in every district. We are also attempting to increase seats in as many college as possible,” said health minister C Vijaya Baskar.
The state also plans to add 150 more postgraduate seats in nine state-run medical colleges, with the MCI making it mandatory for all colleges offering MBBS to start postgraduate courses by 2020-21. Colleges have to apply for permit to start postgraduate courses within three years of grant of recognition, or three years from the date of inclusion of the MBBS qualification, according to the Postgraduate Medical Education (Amendment) Regulations, 2018, notified on April 5. MCI has said that failure to do the same will lead to withdrawal of recognition of MBBS qualification. “More medical colleges and PG seats is probably the only way to solve the dearth of doctors in some parts of the state. This will also ensure universal health coverage,” said Doctors Association for social equality general secretary Dr GR Ravindranath. – TOI