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Free orthopedic treatment at BIRRD for needy Indians
August 27, 2017, 9:01 am
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Pride of Asia * Ultra-modern facilities

Hailing from the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, Subbana, aged 51, has been working in Kuwait since 20 years as a domestic helper.  He was suffering from knee pain for six years and had visited several times hospitals around Kuwait in search for relief, but all he was prescribed were painkillers. When matters turned worse, he decided to try out treatments in India. He approached many corporate hospitals and was suggested knee replacement surgery. The cost was nearly 600,000 rupees and he knew he could not afford it.

Similarly, Rajamma, who has been working in Kuwait since 25 years was suffering from severe back pain and was diagnosed with a spinal problem. She approached several corporate hospitals in Chennai, where she was suggested lumbar spine reconstruction. The total expense amounted to Rs 1.2 million.

The story does not end here, not for Subbana and Rajamma, and neither for the hundreds of Indians working in Kuwait as maids, construction workers and other menial jobs for meager wages. Luckily, Rajamma and Subbana were suggested BIRRD (Balaji Institute of Surgery, Research and Rehabilitation for the Disabled) Hospital in India. Being a below poverty line cardholder proved to be a boon to them as all BPL cardholders are entitled to free treatment at BIRRD.

Rajamma was immediately admitted and treated. Subbana also underwent knee replacement surgery recently. Know they are well.  

Balaji Institute of Surgery, Research and Rehabilitation for the Disabled (BIRRD) is a medical hospital established in 1985 by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam to treat patients suffering from polio myelitis, cerebral palsy, congenital anomalies, spinal injuries, and the orthopedically handicapped.

The hospital is located in Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh, India) at the footsteps of Tirumala Hills. The facility has 300 in-patient beds, 50 ICU beds, and 15 operation theatres. It is fully equipped with state-of-art medical equipment and its services are provided by highly experienced and motivated professionals and volunteers.

Dedicated to serving the poor, BIRRD provides free orthopedic surgery to BPL cardholders and charges a nominal rate for others. This hospital is a non-profit organization and is run with funds granted by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams and donations from the public.

The picture shows a world class facility operation theatre in BIRD Hospital. These theatres are filled with ingenious design and equipment most conducive to all needs of surgery and to address patient needs. Beds are ergonomically designed to suit conditions of different patients.

Oxygen and other gases, injections and medicines, emergency drug trolley with intravenous facility, freshest air supplied by Laminar Airflow, exhaust fans on all four walls, brilliant lights imported from Germany coupled with cameras, facilities to record the entire surgical procedure to be broadcast live to any corners of the world simultaneously including class rooms, ultra-modern x-ray system that can scan and analyze 65 spots at a time, a very precise computer navigation system that gives exact information of extent of damage of joint during surgery… These theatres are filled with world-class technology that ensures not even a drop of blood is spilled!

Ortho surgeries cost a bomb in corporate hospitals. But the BIRD Hospital offers services that match the facilities of best hospitals in US and UK at minimal or no cost at all! Thus the hospital has become a lifesaver for many poor and underprivileged patients of the region.

Former EO of BIRD Dr D. Sambasiva Rao has worked closely with present director Prof. G Jagadesh to get Rs 430 million sanctioned for the upgrading of the hospital. This resulted in 15 operation theatres, 300 in-patient beds and 50 ICU beds added to the hospital.

A bent, broken or moved spinal cord surgery would cost up to Rs 1.2 million in any private hospital; a BPL cardholder gets the same surgery done at BIRRD for free or for nominal charges only. A knee joint surgery is performed here for as little as Rs 110,000, that too with American-made implants!

The facilities at the operation theatres here are not seen anywhere else in entire Asia! Every theatre has a unique feature meant to treat specific needs. Because of them, surgeries are now performed at greater speed and frequency, which has also resulted in increased outpatients here. It used to be 300 earlier, now it is usually over 800 per day! Not only from both the Telugu states - patients come here from across the country.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu examines an artificial limb fixed on a patient at BIRRD Hospital in Tirupati during the inauguration of the additional block of BIRRD recently.

The 250 bedded, 7-operation theatre hospital that started operating in 1985 used to have months and years of waiting lists for surgeries. OP was limited to three days of the week only, but many thronged the hospital even on other days from far off places! Spinal cord surgeries, knee replacement, limb reconstructions, procedures like arthroscopy used to have at least three years of waiting period. Whatever the recommendation, the waiting list could not be flouted. Waiting list and the given date were to become the biggest truths for suffering patients! On an estimate, completion of all the scheduled surgeries would take up to 2020!

Looking at all these hard realities, the Director of the hospital Dr Jagadish started looking at ways to reduce the woes of patients. Expansion was one measure that was taken up on a war footing. The Tirumala Tirupathy Temple Trust’s first contribution of Rs 280 million was utilized to bring in most needed foreign equipment and machinery. The next contribution of RS 180 million was used to build a sprawling four-storied new campus. The new patients coming in are given a surgery date before August 2018 now. The waitlist is shorn off two years already! From 5 am to 6 pm, over 120 surgeries are now performed every day!

Any surgery is fraught with infections due to blood contamination and waste. Doctors at BIRRD are taking measures to bring these infections closer to zero every day. A 21-ton AC is administering the temperature 24 hours in all operation theatres of BIRRD Hospital. Built with Laminar Airflow technology, the air in these theatres is replaced 20 times an hour! Thus the risk of contamination is 0.05 percent only.

Monitors, ventilators, anesthesia machines were installed at a cost of Rs 25 million each. There is an ultra-modern centrally sterilized section that handles the sterilization of all surgery equipment, other instruments and cloths used by doctors and patients. Apart from the devoted staff for the purpose, a weekly inspection is carried out by experts of the microbiology section.

Director Dr. G. Jagadesh talking with children during medical camp.

Dr Jagadish administers the visits of foreign medical experts to the hospital. BIRRD will be the temporary home and working place for these visiting dignitaries from other states of India and other countries. Congenital twisted limbs, broken bones, torn nerves and ligaments are treated by shoulder keyhole surgery specialist Dr Bhaskar Anand Kumar from Udipi, Karnataka. South India’s most respected spinal cord surgery expert Dr SP Mohanty (Manipal) is also offering his services free of cost here. Joints related surgery expert Dr Gautam Chaudary of UK too visits the hospital on a need base.

Dr Jagadish said the facilities and equipment here are the best in the whole of Asia. With relentless hard work and commitment, we could bring a new hospital to full utilization under six months! The OPD has increased multifold.

The surgery waitlist too is reduced to less than six months now. All this is due to the relentless work by many here. Experts from across the country and many other nations are coming here voluntarily and offering free services. Once a patient comes here with a complication, he is treated with utmost care and sent home with nothing to worry about. Even persons without the BPL card are offered treatment and surgeries at base cost only. With continued support from the TTD Trust, the hospital will be strengthened further to ensure all-round care and support for needy.    

- Lenin Polineni     

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