On World Heart day, Kannur Government Medical College’s cardiology department beats for attention

Kannur Government Medical College
A view of the Kannur Government Medical College. Photo: Manorama

Kannur: If the volume of cath lab procedures is the benchmark of excellence, then the Kannur Government Medical College at Pariyaram can claim top position among the cardiology departments in the country.

Sample this. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the functioning of cardiology departments elsewhere, around 3,600 persons underwent various cath lab procedures, such as balloon angioplasty, coronary and left ventricular digital angiography, coronary intravascular ultrasound, right and left heart catheterization, rotational atherectomy, stent implantation and thrombectomy, at the medical college in 2020.

This is a commendable feat for a medical college hospital that functioned under the cooperative sector from 1995 to 2019 before being taken over by the government.

The hospital had launched a separate cardiology wing - Hrudayalaya - in 2003. Six years later, in 2009, it was rechristened as Sahakarana Hrudayala after the management entered into an agreement with Bengaluru’s famous cardiac speciality hospital, Narayana Hrudayalaya, to run the facility. Recently, the name has been officially changed to the department of cardiology after the government takeover, but patients still prefer to call it ‘Hrudayalaya’.

Inside the cardiology department at the Kannur Government Medical College
Inside the cardiology department at the Kannur Government Medical College. Photo: Manorama

“Over the last 18 years, we treated around five lakh patients with cardiac problems. We are among the top four hospitals in India in cath lab procedures. We handle the maximum number of cath lab procedures in Kerala. This is a success of a collective team effort,” says Head of Cardiology Department, Dr S M Ashraf.

The department caters to 60 lakh people in Kasaragod, Kannur and parts of Wayanad and Kozhikode districts. The facility has 200 beds - the highest among cardiology departments in the state - and 50 intensive care unit (ICU) beds. According to official figures, the cardiology department treats an average of 300 patients a day and conducts 400 cath lab procedures in a month.

“The biggest advantage for us is the availability of two cath labs. The third cath lab will become functional soon. This will help us serve more patients without losing time,” says Medical College Principal Dr K Ajayakumar.

The cardiology department serves people mainly from lower and middle class segments and the charges are much lower compared to the private super speciality hospitals. “People have an attachment to the cardiology department here as it offers the best cost-effective treatment,” says Hospital Superintendent Dr K Sudeep.

Despite treating a record number of patients, the department is still functioning at a facility built many years ago and no major addition to infrastructure has happened over the years.

Doctors feel that the cardiology department should be given ‘super speciality’ status and a separate building. “The cardiology department has the potential to be developed as Malabar Regional Heart Centre that will cater to poor patients from all four north Kerala districts,” says Dr Ashraf.

Another major demand is to increase the number of doctors and support staff. At present, the department has 15 doctors, 175 nurses and 30 paramedical staff. “We should get more doctors in the cardiology department as the number of patients is increasing every year. Besides, the number of seats in post graduate courses and superspeciality courses should be increased,” opines Dr Sudeep.

A proposal to ramp up the infrastructure has already been submitted to the government. “We hope the government will take a favourable decision soon,” says Dr Ajaykumar.

(World Heart Federation observes September 29 as World Heart Day to raise awareness about the health risks caused by cardiovascular diseases.)

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