While the medical superintendent played down the issue, senior doctors revealed that it's a perennial problem at the hospital's operation theatre
Thanks to the defunct air conditioning (AC) unit inside the operation theatre (OT) at the state-run St George's Hospital, on Monday the surgeons were left with a scalpel in one hand and a fan in the other. Though the system was fixed by Tuesday, the surgeons could manage just eight minor surgeries and postponed a host of major ones, leaving the patients uneasy.

The heat is on: The surgeons at St George's Hospital could manage
just eight minor surgeries and postponed a host of major ones, as the
AC unit inside the operation theatre stopped working. Representation pic

Patient speaks
Devraj Yadav (39), who was scheduled for a major surgery on Monday, was shocked to learn that his operation was postponed. Yadav has been diagnosed with a parotid gland tumour. "I was completely prepared for the operation, but suddenly the doctors told me that they have changed the date, as the AC unit inside the OT isn't functioning properly," said Yadav.

He is now having second thoughts of going under the knife. "I've been informed that my operation has been rescheduled for next week. I am a driver by profession and an extended leave means loss of salary, which I can't afford," said Yadav, adding that he has three school-going kids to look after.

According to doctors at the hospital, this is not the first time that the AC unit inside the OT has ceased functioning.

"In the past too, we had faced similar issues. There is no specific maintenance guy looking after the AC inside
the OT. In Western countries, it is mandatory to run the AC at a particular temperature during surgeries," said a senior doctor.

Another senior doctor added, "Operating without an AC leads to infection, because during the surgery, tissues are exposed to high temperatures. Also there is an overhead shadowless lamp in the OT that emits heat, leading to an increase in the room temperature. This rise in temperature is bad for the patient as well as the surgeon. Imagine a surgeon wiping his forehead during an operation."

The Other side
When Dr D R Kulkarni, medical superintendent of St George's Hospital was questioned about the risk factor of patients contracting infections due to the non-functioning AC, Dr Kulkarni pointed out that surgeries in rural areas are performed in the absence of air conditioning systems.

He said, "After all, it's a machine and we cannot have absolute control over it. There was some problem in the sensor and it has been rectified. All surgeries went on smoothly after it was rectified."

According to Dr Anup Ramani, uro-oncological robotic surgeon at Asian Heart Institute and Lilavati Hospital, "In operation theatres, temperatures are deliberately kept low to prevent the growth of bacteria, so that the patients don't contract infections. I would never start an operation unless the OT is cooled properly, because it's not fine to have a sweating patient or a surgeon during an operation. Hence, to prevent infections, the temperature inside the OT must be maintained between 20 C to 24 C at least."