February 27, 2009

Smart card to help in medical emergencies

A smart card will now come to the rescue to retrieve medical information during emergencies. Yos Technologies on Wednesday at Bangalore launched the YosCare health and emergency care smart card, which will help with critical information about a patient -- blood group, allergies, health problems, medications, contact details -- during an emergency.

It is expected to assist doctors take quick and accurate decisions. Once the card is inserted into the Emergency Card Terminal in a hospital or ambulance, the information is retrieved as a print-out.

Twenty hospitals are part of the network. The facility is also avaialable in ambulances run by CTC Sanjeevini. Information can be updated online, through sms or at drop-in boxes in member hospitals.

The card is targeted at senior citizens, individuals with chronic health problems and two-wheeler riders, who are all at a risk of an emergency. About four lakh such cards are expected to be distributed this year.

February 23, 2009

Hepatitis-B Epidemic: Greed of penny-wise doctors

Greed of penny-wise doctors in Modasa and neighbouring parts seem to have played a major role in exposing innocent people

to one of the deadliest strains of Hepatitis-B virus as they re-used syringes that cost a negligible amount to skin off as much profit as possible.

A police complaint filed against Dr Rakesh Shah of Dhansura, one of the five doctors arrested, alleges him of gross medical negligence which includes re-use of syringes and dumping medical waste of his clinic in the panchayat dust-bin.

Other doctors have been accused of practising allopathy medicine despite having degrees in ayurveda, homeopathy or other alternative medicine.

Experts say that the economics of using disposable syringes prompts many doctors doing general practise to re-use syringes, especially when they treat patients charging by Rs 15-25.

"A disposable syringe of standard company costs between Rs 2.85-5.50. In wholesale, these are available to doctors for less than Rs 2. A large number of doctors in rural areas tend to re-use syringes to save as much money as possible. Pathology laboratories are also more prone to re-use of syringes," says Mehsana-based Anil Naik, former president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Gujarat, which has been organising seminars on Safe Injection Practises' to curb misuse of injections in spreading deadly viruses like HIV, Hepatitis-B and C.

Officials too widely accept that re-use of syringes could be a big reason for this outbreak and the state should take serious measures to curb the spread of the virus. In fact, health minister Jaynarayan Vyas on Saturday urged people in Modasa to avoid taking unnecessary injections as they could pose a threat to spreading the infection.

Earlier, of the 1,50,642 people checked in 227 villages it was found that 459 people had taken injections, 1,883 people had undergone operations, another 152 had taken dental treatment and 25 people had under gone blood transfusion. Meaning, a majority were exposed to needles that may have been recycled!

Experts say that most doctors in villages and towns see an average of 100 patients daily. Most of these patients are given injections as patients tend to have a psychology that injections give prompt relief. Many doctors oblige as giving an injections means extra income of Rs 10-15 per patient.

"We take injections all the time. My wife had also taken injection for fever and Mahir too was given an injection for skin allergy," Abdulbhai of Modasa told TOI. Both his wife and son have succumbed to Hepatitis-B.

February 21, 2009

Bad medical practices could have led to Hepatitis-B outbreak

State health minister Jay Narayan Vyas on Thursday indicated that spread of the Hepatitis-B outbreak could get bigger.

Already seven doctors in Sabarkantha have been booked for bad medical practices.
Responding to the issue raised by BJP MLA Dilipsinh Parmar in the state Assembly on Thursday Vyas said of the 1,50,642 people checked in 227 villages in the district, it was found that 459 people had taken injections, 1,883 people had undergone surgeries, another 152 had taken dental treatment and 25 people had under gone blood transfusion. All of these could cause transmission of the deadly virus if care was not taken by medical practitioners. Vyas indicated that these could be the possible reason for the outbreak.

He said that 11 medical teams are in the area and are collecting blood samples for further analysis. Two members from National Institute of Virology, Pune, are also camping here studying the outbreak.

Charitable hospitals to be penalised for not admitting poor

Private charitable hospitals that do not admit financially weak patients will now have to pay a penalty of Rs 25,000 and administrators

could face imprisonment of three months. This is the gist of an amendment to the existing Public Trust Act that was approved in the state cabinet meeting held at Sahyadri on Wednesday.

According to Section 41 (a) of the Act, it is binding on the private hospitals run by a charitable trust to reserve 10% of the total number of operational beds and 10% of the total capacity of patients treated, for medical examination and treatment free of charge. However, the state government has been flooded with complaints made against such hospitals for not complying with the prescribed norms.

"The Association of Hospitals (AoH) is meeting on Saturday to decide the future course of action,'' said Col Manesh Masand, CEO of Jaslok Hospital and AoH president.

Supreme Court breather to docs on negligence

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stepped in to check harassment of doctors in medical negligence cases. A division bench of Justice

Markandey Katju and Justice G S Singhvi held that consumer and criminal courts would have to seek the opinion of a doctor or a panel of doctors before issuing a notice to a medical practitioner or a hospital in a case alleging negligence.

The fresh guidelines stipulate that whenever a consumer forum or a criminal court receives a complaint against a doctor, it should refer the matter to a panel of experts. Only after the committee reports that there is a prima facie case of medical negligence should a notice be issued to the doctor or hospital concerned.

"This is necessary to avoid harassment to doctors who may not be ultimately found to be negligent," observed the bench, adding: "The courts and consumer fora are not experts in medical science and must not hold their own views over that of specialists. It is true that the medical profession has to an extent become commercialised and there are many doctors who depart from their Hippocratic oath for their selfish ends of making money. However, the entire medical fraternity cannot be blamed or branded as lacking in integrity or competence just because of some bad apples."

The court also warned police officials not to arrest or harass doctors unless the facts were in line with earlier apex court guidelines. "Otherwise the policemen will themselves have to face legal action," said the judges.

The matter before the SC pertained to a 17-year-old case filed by Union commerce ministry officer Mohammad Ishfaq against a Mumbai-based doctor practising at Nanavati Hospital.

February 06, 2009

Billroth hospitals eyeing PE funding of Rs 250 cr

Billroth Hospitals of Chennai has chalked out aggressive growth plans, that include expanding its speciality clinic footprints in the metro and beyond.

The hospital has its operations in Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts with 600 beds. It plans to raise Rs 250 crore private equity for acquisitions and branching out to tier II destinations.

"We are looking at setting up satellite centres and tertiary care centres in and around the city. Five such centres and one tertiary care unit are proposed in the next few months," Billroth Hospitals MD Dr J Rajesh told ET here on Thursday.

Billroth, which has invested Rs five crore in its first dedicated heart failure clinic in the city, is also scouting for buy outs. It has short-listed 3 hospitals in the metro and one each in Trichy and Kanchipuram. "While the rural acquisitions would be 30-50 bed size hospitals, those in Chennai would be 100-beds and more," he said, estimating the total expansion drive to cost Rs 250 crore.

By 2010, it plans to add 400 beds to reach the 1,000 bed milestone, Dr Rajesh said. In the industrial area of Ambattur, it has begun the construction work on a greenfield 100-bed hospital on five grounds (1 ground = 2400 sq ft) while at Adyar, it is finalising a concept that would see the establishment of a specialised infertility-maternity-cum paediatric care unit in a single location. These projects would take two years to complete, he added.

For the new hospital, Billroth has earmarked an investment of Rs 15 crore and for the speciality care centre in Adyar, it is bringing in Rs 30 crore. With 180 consultants on its rolls, Billroth has a headcount of 2,500 which includes administrative, nursing and para-medical staff.

Dr Rajesh dismissed reports on Billroth being perceived as an acquisition target. Started in 1990, in the last few years, the hospital has been pursuing aggressive brand campaigns. Registering a growth rate of 20% annually, he said Billroth spent Rs 30 crore on promotions.

Dwelling on the new heart failure clinic, he said heart disease has been on the rise among the young and the older population, given the current lifestyle and stressful environment. Patients with heart failure need special care which include a multi-disciplinary team work, special investigations, devices and treatment modalities.
"The aim of starting such a clinic is to provide a comprehensive treatment for heart failure with the proposed satellite centres getting hooked to the main facility," Dr Rajesh added.

February 05, 2009

ESIC to set up 11 medical colleges, 13 PG institutions

The Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), under the Labour and Employment Ministry, will set up 11 medical colleges and 13 postgraduate medical institutions to provide better health care and superspeciality treatment to the insured.

The first such college will start functioning in 2010-11. Forty per cent each of the seats in these colleges will be allotted on an all-India basis and to the respective State governments.

Out of the remaining 20 per cent, 10 per cent will go to children of the insured employees, and five per cent each to children of the employers and the wards of ESIC staff, Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes said at an editors’ conference here on Wednesday.

Once the colleges started functioning, there would be a sea change in the services offered in the ESIC hospitals and dispensaries, he said.

At present, there are 144 hospitals, 42 annexes and 1,427 dispensaries under the scheme covering 3.30 crore beneficiaries.

While 21 hospitals are directly run by the ESIC, the remaining are administered through the State governments.

February 03, 2009

India Health Card brings quality healthcare to NRI families

An Indian American group of professionals has launched a first of its kind India Health Card, a prepaid, reloadable card that lets Non-resident Indians (NRIs) fund healthcare needs of their family and friends back home.

Instead of wiring money to help an ailing relative or friend to pay doctor's bills, all that an NRI has to do is to load the India Health Card through the Internet. They in turn can simply use it like a debit card to get access to quality health services through an extensive network of medical, dental and other providers across India.

"India Health Card is a result of our vision for the healthcare industry in India. Our research has demonstrated a need for innovative healthcare payment solutions," said Ravi Halekote, founder and CEO of India Health Card.

"With a management team of veteran health care professionals and an established network of providers, we are delighted to launch India Health Card and help make health care more affordable and convenient to the families of NRIs in India," he added.

NRIs keep sending money to India for various purposes. But many a time, money sent home does not get used for the intended purpose and healthcare often takes the back seat as priorities change.

But money sent through the India Health Card can be used only for healthcare, Halekote told IANS explaining its advantage over other methods of remittance. "The bottom line is that the control is in the hands of the sender," he said.

One can become a member by paying a fee of $10 for an individual and $25 for the family and then keep loading and reloading the card as and when required at a five percent loading fee. There is also a $1,000 a day loading limit to prevent any misuse.

The card is accepted by 2,000 plus providers across India who also provide 10 to 15 percent discount on their usual customer care fees. They in turn get an increased flow of paying patients as the card works like a deposit card, but for a specific purpose.

Its promoter Transglobal Beneficial Inc, a Texas based privately held company launched by a team of medical professionals, has set aside a half a million dollar advertising budget with the aim of getting 50,000 members in 2009.

Because India Health Card covers healthcare payments only, it helps prevent the unproductive expenditure of NRI remittances, Halekote said noting that currently, only five percent of the $29 billion annual NRI remittances go toward healthcare-related costs.

Some of the leading hospitals that have signed up with India Health Card as registered service providers include Manipal Cure and Care Centre at Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, Taneya Hospital, Faridabad, Sanjivani Heart and Medical Hospital, Ahmedabad and Lord's Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram.

The company is also negotiating with Fortis, Apollo and other leading hospitals across India to sign up as registered providers.

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