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Tubes to triumph over hospital manpower crunch

- State-run RIMS mulls pneumatic capsules to transport injection vials, lab specimens & reports

Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) is hoping to fight its acute staff crisis in pathological processes through an unparalleled system of sample collection and report distribution.

The state-run heal hub in Ranchi is planning to introduce pneumatic tube transport, also known as capsule pipelines, that propel cylindrical containers through a network of conduits by compressed air or by partial vacuum.

They can be used for transporting solid objects — documents, reports, patient files, X-rays, pharmaceuticals, lab specimens, plasma, injection vials, instruments, et al — as opposed to conventional pipelines that transport only fluids.

If RIMS has its way, it will be the first hospital in Bihar-Jharkhand to launch the system that not just allows expansion of ward to lab services without increasing staffing, but also ensures timely test reports.

In the country, Christian Medical College in Vellore (Chennai) and Kasturba Gandhi Medical College in Manipal (Karnataka) boast the system. In eastern India, Medical Superspecialty Hospital, Apollo Gleneagles and Peerless Hospital in Calcutta too use pneumatic chutes.

Dr S.K. Choudhary, the officiating director of the medical institute, conceded that the proposal was still at a nascent stage. “I have mooted the idea to the departments of biochemistry and microbiology. We are in the process of finding out pneumatic tube experts in India because implementation of the system has to be cost-effective too,” he said.

Choudhary explained that the pneumatic tube transport was a logistics system to cut down on manpower requirement between wards in a hospital. As the sample moves through piped pathway, it needs a monitoring and controlling unit too. “At our hospital, it can have pick-up stations in various wards and a dropping centre at the laboratory. The transportation can be supervised by one mother unit,” he said.

Currently, RIMS is grappling with acute manpower crunch owing to which many patients arriving at the hospital after 1pm are asked to get their examinations done from outside. Against a sanctioned post of 30 lab technicians, it has only 11, revealed insiders.

Admitting that pathological process at the hospital needed to be streamlined, Dr Choudhary said: “At present, pathologists walk from ward to ward, which is time consuming. With the system commissioned, it will take a minute flat for a sample to travel from the ward to the testing laboratory.”

“We are in the process of finding out commissioning costs. In India, there aren’t too many players in the field. Knowing this, we have to present the proposal before the RIMS board and then get the go-ahead from the health department,” he added.

At RIMS, more than 1,000 pathological tests are done every day. “The figures may be higher because apart from those admitted, there are OPD cases too. Ideally, the system, if and when implemented, will be time-saving,” said a senior pathologist.

A senior doctor at the department of microbiology added: “Keeping in mind the delays in conducting pathological tests and difficulty met by poor patients in getting investigations done, pneumatic tube transport seems the panacea for all problems.”

Will RIMS succeed in its ambitious project? Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com