The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Critical first-aid in unsafe hands

Calcutta, Dec. 12: A heart attack victim is helpless in Bengal, for most doctors do not know how to revive someone by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or a cardiac massage.

At least a hundred people die in the state every day because of the medical personnel's lack of knowledge about what is known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Nurses and doctors, who have just completed courses, said their training with dummies was of little help.

Cardiologists said about half the 2,000-odd nursing homes in the city would struggle to manage a cardiac arrest victim because their personnel lack training in life support.

Alarmed after Brazilian footballer Cristiano Junior died of a heart attack during a match in Bangalore, the Indian Critical Care Society has asked the state government to form a resuscitation council so that people can be trained in CPR. The society, which is a conglomerate of specialists trained to tackle emergency situations in hospitals, also wants CPR training to be introduced at the school level.

The society has decided to organise a convention to create a consensus among doctors in the city. It will then urge the government to form the council on the lines of similar bodies in the UK and the US.

Such requests were made earlier and the government had some years ago opened with much fanfare CPR units (costing about Rs 1.25 lakh each) at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and RG Kar Medical College and Hospital. They do not function any more.

Abhijit Banerjee, the head of cardiology at RG Kar, said: 'If we had proper CPR equipment (used in massive heart attacks) like defibrillators (for cardiac shock) and other small gadgets like an airway tube, at least 50-60 lives in all hospitals could be saved. It is sad, but none of the hospitals seems to be ready to tackle such simple problems.'

Shaken out of slumber after Junior's death, the Indian Football Association (IFA), the parent body of football clubs in Bengal, has called a meeting of its sports medicine sub-committee on December 14.

IFA secretary Subrata Dutta said: 'We have a team of sports medicine experts, but we have to take fresh guard.'

The IFA has tied up with two city hospitals to avail of medical facilities during matches. 'During big matches, we will have a specialist medical team on the ground to react to any emergency,' Dutta said.

None of the football clubs has personnel for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Almost 90 per cent of Calcuttans are unaware of what it is, said a cardiac specialist.

'We are holding talks with the health department, which has promised to look into the problem. If the cardiopulmonary resuscitation was correct and on time, Junior wouldn't have died,' said Sourav Kolay of the critical care society.

A doctor here often gets to know the correct procedures of CPR while pursuing a post-MBBS degree. 'I had to undergo an orientation course before my FRCS exams,' said a senior physician.

Critical care specialists said CPR, which involves mouth-to-mouth resuscitation along with cardiac massage, is used to revive people across the world. 'A CPR-equipped team is available in every modern airport and railway station, but not here. About 80 per cent of sudden cardiac arrest patients can be saved by timely use of CPR,' said a cardiac surgeon.

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