The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Heart lifeline for a mere Rs 15000

Guwahati, March 6: When the red light outside one of the operation theatres of Assam’s second oldest medical college was switched off yesterday, it signalled a new lease of life not only for 21-year-old Krishna Karmakar but also thousands of others suffering from heart disease.

“Krishna was operated upon to correct an atrial septal defect and he is responding well. This is a big achievement for us,” Dr M.M. Deka, principal-cum-chief superintendent of Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, said today of the institution’s first “independent” open heart surgery.

What it means is that patients will be spared the trouble of travelling to cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and paying over Rs 1 lakh for open heart surgery and a few more thousands of rupees on fares, food and boarding.

“We can perform the same procedure at the GMCH at a much lower cost,” Dr Deka said. “Krishna’s family had to spend only Rs 15,000 on the surgery, which itself is a very significant aspect of our success.”

This is actually the much-maligned GMCH’s second “major achievement” in as many years. Nephrologists of the hospital “independently” carried out a renal transplant in 2005.

Two open heart surgeries were also performed at the GMCH in 2006, but both involved doctors from outside the state. A five-member team from Dhaka-based Z.H. Sikder Women’s Medical College and Hospital, led by Apurba Kumar Sarma, conducted the first open heart surgery on February 9 last year.

Health and family welfare minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has received both bouquets and brickbats since he set about the task of improving the state’s healthcare infrastructure, congratulated the team of doctors and paramedics who were involved in the surgery on Krishna.

Sarma urged doctors in the other two medical colleges of the state — in Dibrugarh and Silchar — to rise to similar challenges and make advanced healthcare affordable for all sections of society.

Krishna, a resident of Lalganesh in Guwahati, had been living with atrial septal defect for a long time. His problem was detected at the cardio-thoracic surgery department of the GMCH.

Dr Deka said scores of cardiac patients were awaiting open heart surgery at the GMCH.

“Such major surgeries used to be performed only in private hospitals of the region at an exorbitant price. We will minimise the cost to the lowest possible rate,” the principal said.

The government recently sent a team of thoracic surgeons, anaesthetists, perfutionists and paramedics of the GMCH to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi for a refresher course.

The same team of doctors — Dr D. Choudhury, Dr Sisir Ranjan Das, Dr Amarjyoti Barua, Dr Bipul Deka, Dr Anup Choudhury and Dr Utpal Choudhury — and paramedics saved Krishna’s life.

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