Shimla: For the ailing heart patients in far flung valleys, the option of heart surgeries at Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital (IGMCH), Shimla has come as a God send opportunity, especially for the poor and deprived who get the expensive specialized treatment free of costs.
Doctor RS Pathania – credited with having established the super specialist Cardio-Thoracic-Vascular Surgery (CTVS) department at IGMCH, is however, not a satisfied man yet.
â€œItâ€™s only half the journey done. Gaining expertise in doing challenging heart surgeries of congenital defects in newborns would put our department among the best in the country,â€ he says.
Being in the government sector, the super-specialty facility has enabled the poor to avail costly heart treatments through a cashless insurance facility or through the chief minister relief fund.
â€œIt was not easy to convince the government and the medical fraternity for a specialist heart center at IGMC in the first place,â€ says Pathania, now a veteran of 500 open heart surgeries which includes beating heart surgeries.
There were reasons for opposing the CTVS center because other than PGI Chandigarh and Post-graduate Medical Institute, Rohtak, there was hardly any specialist heart center in the state sector in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttrakhand, Himachal and Jammu & Kashmir.
Sudhir Mehta, a CTVS surgeon and part of Dr Pathaniaâ€™s team says, â€œAs we gain expertise, the number of heart surgeries performed each year is rising.â€ The numbers speak for themselves.
In 2006 -the year the department with a dedicated special operation theater became functional, for a start 82 heart surgeries were done. In 2007 a total of 93 surgeries were done, in 2008 the number touched 101 surgeries, in 2009, it rose to 118 and with more than 3 months still to go in 2010, the department has already done 113 heart surgeries – something which was thought impossible at the medical institute, a few years ago.
â€œWith a 98 percent success rate, most of the beneficiaries are poor patients from remote valleyâ€™s; some of whom were diagnosed with a heart disease more than a decade ago,â€ says Mehta.
â€œWe are still clearing the backlog,â€ adds Pathania, as he struggles with listing operation dates to clear the pending four month long waiting list.
Given the success rate of heart surgeries performed, more and more patients from richer sections on full payments are coming forward to avail the treatment available.
Whereas a coronary by-pass surgery costs about Rs 1 lakh, a single valve replacement surgery costs Rs 1.25 lakhs and a double valve surgery costs Rs 1.75 lakhs.
No, not just heart surgeries, sayâ€™s Pathania, â€œwe are doing the complete spectrum of CTVS surgeries, which include vascular surgeries as well as thoracic surgeries – be it lung surgeries or surgeries of the food pipe. We also provide critical support in many complicated spine surgeries, he adds.
Mehta says, â€œpresently we are able to do heart surgeries on children who weigh at least 8 Kgs. We intend to take up more challenging surgeries of children with lesser weights. Elsewhere, specialized heart surgery centers in the private sector do operate upon even 10 day old babies.â€
With a dedicated team of four consultants and two anesthetists, who are backed up by in house resident doctors and paramedic staff; and over 500 heart surgeries to their credit, the department is emboldened to aspire higher.
We have approached the Medical Council of Indiaâ€™s for permitting us to start super-specialization courses in the medical college, says Pathania. â€œWe have applied for being allowed to offer 2 M.Ch seats in CTVS,â€ says Pathania.
For making the treatment available in the state capital, the state government has even honoured the heart surgeon team of IGMCH with the Himachal Garuv award.