01 July 2010
By Pritha Chatterjee
Pvt clinics thrive amid shortage in public hospitals, AERB says they need to seek licence
"We have 655 registrations in Maharashtra so far. A survey we conducted two years back indicated that there are 3000 X–ray units, including CT scanners, operating in the state," said Dr S A Hussain, Head, Radiological Safety Department at AERB.
The countrywide figures are more alarming: only 4,000 machines have so far been registered with the organisation, when the same survey found 60,000 machines operating surreptitiously.
The onus is on the management of such clinics to apply for licences, said Dr Om Pal Singh, secretary, AERB. "Every clinic using diagnostic machines emitting radiation should apply for a licence from us.
The machines should be operated only after obtaining this clearance." He also warned that if specifications on the type of machine, layout, and thickness of walls, doors and ceiling in clinics are not as per AERB guidelines, they could be radiation hazards.
In Mumbai, the mushrooming of private clinics with such facilities is linked to a severe shortage in public hospitals. The KEM Hospital and the BYL Nair Hospital are the only two civic hospitals with MRI machines. A year after the standing committee approved the purchase of an MRI scanner for LTMG Hospital in Sion, it is yet to arrive. KEM does an average 30 scans a day and Nair Hospital about 20–22.
Many private diagnostic clinics are strategically situated around government hospitals. "We are filling a need. There is no denying it is a conscious decision to operate from around civic hospitals," said Dr Nirav Panchmatia , consultant radiologist at Magnum Diagnostics in Sion.
N what could be hailed as the first step towards the restoration of the dwindling vulture population in India, the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has successfully bred 16 vultures in captivity in its Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre (VCBC) in Pinjore, Haryana.
The fledglings belong to the three Asian species – the long–billed vulture, slenderbilled vulture and whitebacked vulture. Of the 16 vultures, nine fledglings (three of each species) were reared in 2009–10, one slender–billed fledged and three whitebacked fledged in 2008–2009 and two white–backed fledged in 2007–08.
The Centre now has a total of 136 vultures, including the newly fledged ones, said BNHS representative Atul Sathe. The Centre at Haryana also keeps a rescued whitebacked vulture which was found injured in Ahmedabad years ago.
Aside from the Pinjore centre, the BNHS has one centre in Rajabhatkhawa, West Bengal, which raises one nestling of a white–backed vulture. The third centre is in Assam.
According to Dr Asad Rah mani, director of BNHS, the past decade has seen a massive decline of vultures in India.
"We were struggling to find out the cause till 2003, when the breakthrough revelation came from America that the presence of the Diclofenac drug in domestic animals’ carcasses cause a fatal disease and kidney failure in vultures." In 2004, an international meeting of experts discussing a vulture action plan decided to build breed centres across India. A fourth centre is situated in Nepal, Rahmani said.
Rahmani said vulture breeding was a slow process as vultures reach their reproductive age only after five years, reproduce only once a year and have a total lifespan of just 15–20 years. "We, with the help of state governments, had taken young vultures from the wild 5–6 years ago. Our plan was to put 25 pairs of vultures in each centre. Today finally the immature birds are ready to reproduce and the result is beginning to show," Rahmani said.
He pointed out that the centres were tapping into a peculiar habit of the birds to make the breeding programme more successful. "Usually, the vultures give one egg at a time.
However, if the first egg is taken away immediately from them, they lay a second one.
We use this behaviour to our advantage and put away the first egg in an incubator immediately. This way we manage to get two eggs from each pair." The BNHS hopes that more vultures can be bred at its centres from now on. However, Rahmani said the birds could be released into the wild only when use of Diclofenac is stopped in animals and pointed out that BNHS had been pressing the government for the ban.
The vulture centres are a joint programme of BNHS and the forest department. They are funded by Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), UK, and Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species, UK, with technical support from National Birds of Prey Trust, UK, and Zoological Society of London, UK.