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Times of India
28 October 2010
By Clara Lewis
Mumbai, India

SPACE CRUNCH: Resident doctors relax in a ward room SPACE CRUNCH: Resident doctors relax in a ward room
The decision to hand over a 70,000–sq–ft plot belonging to Sion Hospital to another government body for a blood bank has raised the hackles of BMC doctors and employees, who have long suffered because of lack of space in the hospital.

The plot, which currently houses barracks and is across the road from the hospital, is to be given to the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) for the purpose of building a metro blood bank. Currently, the barracks are being used as residential quarters by hospital employees identified as ‘required on hand’ for emergencies.

What has upset civic doctors most is that the move is being carried out–without the knowledge of the Improvements Committee, the municipal commissioner and the Director of Health Services–while the hospital itself is in dire need of expanding its over–burdened infrastructure. Its MBBS course is, in fact, in danger of losing Medical Council of India’s recognition.

Last week, at a meeting of Senior Medical Teachers’ Association at Sion Hospital, Dr Sanjay Oak, director, Health Services, read out a letter he had written to additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar opposing the move. In the letter, Oak said that he was kept in the dark about the proposal.

Oak also said in the letter that the plot can accommodate two 22–storey towers as has been done at KEM Hospital. These can house the required wards, departments, student hostels and residential quarters for doctors and other employees. The plot, meanwhile, could have a ground required under MCI guidelines, while the barrack units could be preserved as a heritage structure (since the hospital first became operational in these barracks).

"We can also house the Metro Blood Bank as proposed by Naco, but these preliminary requirements of Sion Hospital need to be first met. Else, like KEM hospital, it too faces the danger of its MBBS course being derecognised by the MCI for lack of infrastructure," said Oak.

S S Kudalkar, in–charge of Mumbai District Aids Control Society, which is overseeing the setting up of the blood bank, said that Naco had decided in 2008 to set up a metro blood bank each in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. The Mumbai blood bank is proposed to be a research institute, cater to the western region and control all blood banks in the region. In 2008, Naco had decided to set up the blood bank at Cama Hospital.

"However, when architects took up the designing of the project they realized that no tall structure could be constructed there since Cama hospital is a heritage site," said Kudalkar.

Subsequently, it was decided to set up the blood bank at Sion Hospital. Kudalkar says that the proposal had been approved by the Centre and that they were waiting for a formal goahead from Naco to set things in motion.

Explaining the decision, Kudalkar said that Praveen Krishna, then head of Naco, had visited Mumbai in 2008 to shortlist sites. The Sion Hospital plot was one of those inspected and approved by him. Kudalkar added that the then additional municipal commissioner, Kishore Gajbhiye, had agreed to the decision and Sion Hospital dean Dr Sandhya Kamat had moved a proposal to allot the plot for the blood bank.

"The BMC was in the know and had in–principle accepted to give the Sion plot for the blood bank. It was only that the Cama hospital site was the first choice at the time," he said. When contacted, Kamat refused to comment.

Municipal commissioner Swadhin Kshatriya said he has not taken any decision on the land. "A few days ago, a delegation led by Dr Mohan Joshi from Sion Hospital called on me and submitted a representation expressing their concern about the problems that may arise for the future expansion of the hospital. I have sought comments on each point mentioned in the representation," he said.

Kshatriya said he was told that central and state governments supported the scheme. "Since the decision could affect Sion Hospital, we will examine the proposal very carefully and take a decision only after considering all aspects."

Sunil Chitnis, working president, Municipal Karmachari Kamgar Sena, said the hospital was in urgent need of upgrading its infrastructure. Resident doctors, he said, were living in side–rooms in wards normally meant for patients, while the CT scan and MRI centre along with the physiotherapy department were being operated in the hospital’s parking lot. Further, pregnant women were being consigned to the floor since there was only one labour ward with 70 beds, but the occupancy rate was 250.

Striking a conciliatory note, Kudalkar said, "We need only 16% of the land. The remainder can be used for Sion Hospital." Sources, however, claimed the plan was to give the entire plot for the blood bank.

Notes On A Scandal
In 2008, National AIDS Control Organisation decided to set up a blood bank each in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata Its first choice in Mumbai was Cama Hospital, but the plans had to be shelved because regulations prohibit construction of towers in heritage precincts Mumbai District Aids Control Society, subsequently, chose a plot belonging to Sion Hospital for the project, rankling doctors and employees who have long suffered from lack of space Space Bar

The lack of space in Sion Hospital has caused a number of problems:
With wards overflowing, some patients are consigned to the floor CT scan and MRI centre, physiotherapy and occupational therapy departments operate from the parking lot Resident doctors live in tiny rooms in wards Fifteen post–graduate students put up in a 150–sq–ft hostel room Only 196 students accommodated in the under graduate students’ hostel. The need is for 600 rooms The hospital’s MBBS course faces derecognition from the Medical Council of India because the hospital does not meet required standards

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