MRI scanner machine. | Representative photo

The wait for thousands of patients visiting various public hospitals around the city to get their magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan seems endless. It’s either that or the machine doesn’t work.

Relatives of patients have to run from pillar to pillar to get an appointment and often end up shelling out large sums from their own pockets to have the scans done at private clinics.

The poor have no choice but to turn to citizen-run hospitals because private hospitals or clinics are unaffordable. Consequently, the queues of patients requiring MRI examinations in public hospitals are getting longer and the wait can be up to three months or they are referred to one of the peripheral hospitals, thanks to the overloaded radiology services. and very few machines.

In a recent case, Sanjay Gupta, 40, (name changed) traveled 600km for 12 hours from Nanded with his family of five, including his elderly father and a 10-year-old son, to King Edward Hospital Mumbai Memorial (KEM). .

Gupta, a construction worker, had suffered a spinal injury that disabled his legs. His family wanted to continue treating him in a private hospital but could not afford it. So they transferred him to King Edward Memorial Hospital.

Their woes were compounded when they were asked to have an MRI before seeing the doctor. The hospital only has one MRI machine at the moment. “We were told that we would have to wait until January of next year. They gave us an appointment for December 15 after we explained our difficult situation,” said Sachin Gupta, Sanjay’s younger brother, also a daily worker.

Sanjay’s family had to spend over 20,000 rupees for a two-day trip as it involved provisions for the trip and food. “My brother is in a wheelchair, so we had to travel by taxi, which cost us more. Staying in Mumbai with his family is an extra burden,” Sachin said. “Our income has stopped because we are daily wage earners. We borrowed a large sum from a moneylender for this trip,” adds Sanjay.

Citizen-run hospitals charge 2,500 rupees for an MRI scan, almost half the price of private hospitals and diagnostic centers. The disadvantaged have little choice but to wait, said a social worker who helps the poor with the admission process at public hospitals.

Every day, the MRI department of public hospitals receives about 50 to 60 patients, who request an appointment as soon as possible. However, the hospital only handles 12-15 scans per day.

In another case, a patient who came for a routine checkup at BYL Nair Hospital in Nallasopara had to come three times a week for an emergency MRI appointment because he was experiencing severe pain in his spine. vertebral.

“My family doctor advised me to have an MRI because I suffered an injury while training in the gym. I work in Churchgate, I preferred Nair Hospital as it is close by, but it was a nightmare for me as I had to travel to the hospital three times a week for an appointment. There are many like me who have been waiting for a date for a long time,” said Gaurav Gada, a retail store employee.

According to the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) on Domestic Tourism in India (2014-15), a total of 36.6 million health-related trips were made in the country, including trips to home district and to other districts in the home state. as well as in other states. In Mumbai itself, more than 30% of those hospitalized in public hospitals in Mumbai come from rural areas of Maharashtra and other states.

Like the KEM, the Sion hospital is also faced with a shortage of MRI machines. The hospital currently has two of which one has been widely used. “We do about 25 MRIs a day. It’s a long process that takes about 45 minutes, unlike the CT scans we do about 150 a day,” says hospital dean Dr Mohan Joshi. Sion Hospital sees a demand for around 100 MRI scans per day, Dr Joshi informs.

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