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Mumbai: Row over child ICU at JJ hospital

Updated on: 12 December,2022 07:15 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Diwakar Sharma |

Department doctors say young lives will be at risk, while dean says current location was only temporary and moving PICU will only benefit patients

Mumbai: Row over child ICU at JJ hospital

An aerial view of the main building of Sir JJ hospital. Pic/Shadab Khan

Tension is brewing between the Dean of Sir JJ Hospital and the Department of Paediatrics over the shifting of 15-bed Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) from its main building to Balaram building. While the move is aimed at making space for a new geriatric ward, sources told mid-day that there is not enough space in the Balaram building and it may even put the lives of the children at risk. The department has written to the JJ hospital's dean urging that the PICU be shifted to another floor of the main building itself.

Sources from the hospital said that the dean and superintendent have been mounting pressure on the paediatric department to shift the PICU on the ground floor of Balaram building, which super-speciality doctors hardly visit.

“At present, the PICU is located in a bigger space in the main building and it is convenient for super-speciality doctors to make rounds there. But if it’s shifted to the Balaram building, the child patients at PICU will suffer. They will have to be rushed to super-speciality doctors in another building, for which paediatricians will first have to make requests for an ambulance,” the source told mid-day.

The dean of JJ hospital said that the PICU needs to be shifted to make way for a new geriatric ward. File picThe dean of JJ hospital said that the PICU needs to be shifted to make way for a new geriatric ward. File pic

In addition, sources added, infection control protocols will be compromised as the entry for PICU will be through Ward 39, and in case of emergency, the limited emergency exit will be chaotic and disastrous.

Also Read: Mumbai: City on road to being Covid-free 

HoD writes to Dean

Dr Bela Verma, head of the department, Paediatrics, wrote to Dean Dr Pallavi Saple last month, explaining the effects the move will have on the patients. “Dr Verma wrote that the references to super-specialist departments including paediatric surgery, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, orthopaedic, etc. are not attended in time due to the distance [between the two buildings]. And if the PICU is shifted to the Balaram building, critically-ill patients need to be transported for which one needs to have an ambulance. This will definitely delay the treatment,” said the source.

One of the nurses told mid-day that Dr Verma also advised the dean to at least relocate the PICU to another floor in the main building so that the super specialists can easily visit the critically-ill patients. “But she is adamant and not listening to anyone,” she added.

Not enough space

“If the entire PICU is shifted on the ground floor at Balaram building, it will be a sheer violation of National Medical Commission (NMC) guidelines for inter-patient distance. There has to be a distance of at least one metre between two beds,” said a nurse at the hospital, adding that there is also no space for nurses’ and doctors’ stations there. 

“The area in the ward to accommodate patient beds along with all the ICU instruments per patient per bed which includes Central 
Monitoring Station, syringe pumps, ventilators, etc is inadequate and not as NMC norms,” said the nurse.

A ward boy said, “There are eight big beds and seven small trolleys at the PICU. The area where PICU at present is located in the main building is over 1,500 sq ft. But, it is now being shifted to a space which is less than 1,000 sq ft. So, naturally there will be congestion as the distance between beds will be inadequate.”

Another ward boy said, “There is no store room for numerous machinery, equipment, cupboards, linen and even for petty supply items. The hospital management must think about this.”

How it was earlier

“The building where the department of paediatrics was located since many years was demolished in 2018. The PICU was first shifted temporarily to a skin building and then to the main building in February 2019. Rest of the units of the department of paediatrics are located in the Balaram building, which is very congested,” said a ward boy.

A nurse said, “Earlier, there was a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the ground floor of Balaram building. It has now been shifted to the first floor near the maternity ward and the space has been cleared for PICU. But this will create a lot of chaos.”

“The NICU shared the washrooms with that of Ward 39 patients. And in the absence of a separate washroom, the infection in the child patients of PICU can increase,” she added.

‘Admin not paying heed’

“We have been requesting for beds in the newborn sections for in-house mothers, who are also patients, as they need to be present to take care of their children. But our requests are not being heard by the dean,” the nurse added.

She said, “Above all, a senior medical officer has been influencing us to silently abide by the orders of the dean. But we are not here to follow the orders but to give our services to poor patients. The orders will not be followed at the cost of patients’ safety.”


When contacted, Dean Dr Saple said, “Someone is giving you wrong information. No tension is brewing for anything on the campus.”

“The PICU was shifted to the main building on a temporary basis. Since the entire department of paediatrics is located in one building, it will be convenient for everyone if PICU is also shifted there on the ground floor,” clarified Dr Saple.

When asked for the reason behind the move, the dean told mid-day that the PICU needs to be shifted out of the main building as a new degree course for geriatric medicine has to be started at the hospital.

Feb ’19
Month when PICU was shifted to the main building

1,000 sq ft
Area given to PICU on ground floor of Balaram building

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