As the country is reeling from the second wave of Covid-19 and stares at a third wave in the near future, amplifying medical infrastructure is the need of the hour, and medical colleges in Maharashtra are doing exactly that. From setting up full-fledged oxygen generation units on campus, to training medical staff in paediatrics department in anticipation of the third wave, state undergraduate medical colleges are ensuring they are introducing several new changes to be better prepared for future challenges.
“The second wave has taught us all an important lesson and that is to be prepared in advance for challenges. The state started a paediatrics training programme for medical staff and students across the state to ensure that basic treatment is done for patients at the time of admission. All state hospitals are preparing a minimum 100-bed paediatric ward along with special intensive care unit beds as well,” said Dr TP Lahane, who recently retired from his post as the director of the state Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER). He added that the state has also started training physicians in rural Maharashtra in paediatrics to ensure no patient is denied help.
As hospitals across the country struggled with oxygen shortage amid rising Covid-19 cases during the second wave, the National Medical Commission (NMC) in April this year made draft amendments to their existing rules, making it compulsory for medical college hospitals to set up pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen units in their campuses. NMC revealed that this move was introduced through a draft amendment to the Minimum Requirements for Annual MBBS Admissions Regulations, and the circular clarified that these arrangements have to be made within six months.
On Friday, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray inaugurated seven new PSA oxygen units across five civic hospitals including Cooper Hospital, Bhabha Hospital, Kasturba Gandhi Hospital and Rajawadi Hospital. “At least 20 other medical colleges are in the process of setting up PSA units, and others will also follow. We are ensuring that medical infrastructure gets better with every passing day,” added Lahane.
The NMC circular from April 2021 also stated that all medical college hospitals should have a dedicated supply of oxygen produced using the PSA technology in addition to the supply from liquid oxygen tanks, which is installed and made operational within six months. “Central oxygen and suction points shall include provision of piped oxygen supply to all patients in critical care from liquid oxygen tanks installed in appropriate place in the hospital complex,” said the circular.
“We already have a large oxygen tank on campus and even during the second wave of Covid, we had adequate oxygen supply through the tank as well as extra cylinders. Oxygen generation is now on our agenda and the management is already in talks about it,” said Dr Varsha Phadke, dean of KJ Somaiya Medical College.
The move to upgrade the present medical infrastructure is also in tune with the introduction of Pandemic Management as a module for undergraduate medical students which was introduced by NMC in August last year.
NMC board of governors (BoG) released the official document with the syllabus in August last year for colleges to implement in the 2020-21 academic year itself. “The pandemic management module is designed to ensure that MBBS students acquire competencies in handling not only the illness but also social, legal and other issues arising from such disease outbreaks,” states the foreward of the module. “The emergence of Covid-19 and its rapid spread across the globe has further underlined the need to develop these skills in our graduates. One of the desirable outcomes of the competency derived education programme is to enable to medical graduate to be able to understand, investigate, treat and prevent new and emerging diseases,” it added.
As per details mentioned in the new module, it has been arranged in a phase-based manner and is expected to be covered by an interdisciplinary team under the supervision of the institute-level curriculum committee. The course not only covers disease/epidemic management, intensive care, research and control, but also includes module on communication with media during a pandemic. “All second- and third-year MBBS students have already studied this module. It will be part of the syllabus for good. Hopefully this will help better prepare our future doctors,” said dean of a private medical college in Pune.