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VOL. XXII NO. 2, MAY 1-15, 2012
Perambur Railway Hospital:
A remarkable journey to excellence
The last of a three part article by Shobha Menon, continued from last fortnight.

The proposed new hospital complex.

A 1993 souvenir echoes PRH's philosophy, " provide comprehensive health care to the patients, upgrade the technical knowledge of the doctors and provide the necessary equipment needed for a high quality of service to the beneficiaries." In this connection, a 2003 record notes: "Till date, over 40,000 cardiac catheterisations and about 9000 interventions have been performed."

The first telemedicine network in Indian Railways connected RH Trichy to PRH in 2004 under the late Dr. G.C. Raju, then Medical Director. The PRH's Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery is also considered a pioneering institute for laser surgeries.

Dr. K.A. Abraham

Dr. K.A. Abraham was the first qualified cardiologist to join PRH. That was in August 1978. He came from the Christian Medical College, Vellore, and during his next 25 years at PRH, he streamlined and standardised many processes in the development of the institution. He remembers driving down from Vellore in his old Fiat car, to be given a two-room apartment on the campus and Rs.2200 salary per month. He further recalls, "The PRH was at first just a 'Sick and Fit' Hospital. In the 1950s some order came about under Dr. E. Somasekhar, a surgeon and the first Southern Railway Chief Medical Officer (1951-1954). He introduced rules for the Railway Medical Department and put the Railway Hospitals on the map! Thereafter came Dr. P.A. Menon (1957-1966), an excellent surgeon and good administrator, who strengthened the hospital structure. Then came Dr. TJC who was CMO from February 1977 to August 1978 and brought the team together!"

Instrumental in contributing several improvements to the infrastructure and facilities not only at the Perambur hospital but also at other railway hospitals in the Southern region, Dr. Abraham was also responsible for making the hospital's Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Department a teaching centre from 1984, training students for the Diplomate of National Board of Examinations. Soon after, it came to be recognised for training in many other specialities like Ob Gyn, Orthopaedics, ENT and so on. A record of that period notes, "From barely a couple of surgeries a week in 1978, the hospital has become a leading referral centre. The cardiology wing with its 110 beds performs 2,500 procedures, besides 1,000 open-heart surgeries, in a year."

Dr. K.R. Balakrishnan, who currently heads FORTIS Malar's Cardio Vascular Care Unit, was around 30 years old when he first landed at PRH in the late 1980s. He recalls nostalgically, "As ADMO, I was allotted a house next to the hospital, and when it rained anywhere, it poured inside! The nearest life was in Dasaprakash, Kellys or Noor Hotel near the Ayanavaram bus stand. What luxury we experienced, with six free railway travel passes and a salary of Rs. 1100, which we never needed to spend on anything! When Dr. TJC went to the US on work, I headed the Unit. We had patients from across India, mainly from the Eastern, Northern and South Eastern Railways. It was truly a great example of how a public institution can work by trusting young people and giving them the responsibility of making an efficient service.

"I remember how our first computer was looked at with great suspicion, and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mehrothra, going around promising people, 'If you let me keep the computer in your room, we will help aircondition it.' I agreed and so learnt G Basic and DW Basic, and that knowledge helped me design a new heart valve for which I have a US patent!" adds Dr. Balakrishnan.

Dr. Balakrishnan also has fond memories of the hospital canteen, the ICF Club where they played tennis or badminton every evening, jogging around the Perambur Stadium, and travelling by Bus No. 35 to Egmore. Every year, between December 23rd and 31st and also from May 15th to June 1st the Cardiac Unit was closed. "We had our best family holidays then. Wherever we went, there was a Railway guesthouse and free travel, and often a TT or station manager or ground staff would come up to us and greet me because our team would have operated on one of his family members. Those were great days, and I miss them very much!" he sighs rather emotionally. Today there are a few more cardiac surgery centres in different zones in Indian Railways, but the Southern Railway cardiac surgery unit in Perambur is recognised for its low mortality rate and its dedicated patient care.

Though the hospital itself has kept pace with advances in the medical fields, the existing building is unable to cope. A new Southern Railway Headquarters Hospital was envisaged in 2005 and sanctioned, with a total built-up area of approximately 500,000 sq ft. The nine-storied new complex would be a well-equipped state-of-the-art building, with Rs.1.5 crore computer-based navigation orthopaedic surgery equipment.

Dr. Kannan

The incumbent Medical Director Dr. Kannan, a paediatrician with PRH since 1991, speaks proudly of the new developments to be. "Very soon, the new 600-plus bed hospital will come up at an estimated cost of Rs.110 crore. The existing hospital premises and the proposed new hospital complex will be available for establishing the Railway Medical College. With basic specialities in 15 disciplines and super-specialities in three disciplines, the hospital is sought out for postgraduate training. It's amazing how the early small unit at the PRH has metamorphosed!"

Truly, it has been a remarkable journey!


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In this issue

Government offers hope again for Heritage Act
The least pedestrian-friendly Indian city: Chennai
When will we get all this power?
An exchange of letters
Perambur Railway Hospital - A remarkable journey to excellence
An Old Boy's advice
METERPODU – A work in progress
The economist as a Shakespearean scholar
A Chola temple near Tambaram

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your diary


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