GMCH set to have super-specialties
Dr Atul Sachdev underlines the need of more hospitals like PGI and GMCH 32 to make available affordable healthcare facilities
Dr Atul Sachdev has devoted his life to humanity and displays altruism in his daily work. Deep determination and utmost respect for his profession, the devoted doctor has a passion for patient care plus a zeal for teaching. Keeping in line with ‘Seva Bhav’, credibility and excellence, it is his endeavor to develop a model medical institution, which is environment friendly as well as patient friendly.

Director-Principal of Government. Medical College and Hospital, Sector 32, Chandigarh, he has a vision of producing quality doctors from the institute and providing good medical services to the patients. Dr Sachdev’s credentials are impeccable. He is an emeritus Professor and Head of the Department of General Medicine. A graduate of Medical College Patiala, he is MD, DM (Gastroenterology), MAMS and pursued his MD, DM in medicine and gastroenterology from PGIMER and has been on the faculty of General Medicine in the GMCH-32 from 1993. The devoted doctor is the founder member and secretary of the Gastrointestinal Infection Society of India. Dr Sachdev has been awarded the membership of National Academy of Medical Sciences and has numerous national and international publications to his credit.
What is your role and responsibility as the Principal and Director of GMCH-32?
Predominantly my role is associated to two fields; one is the academic matters and the other is about patient care. As Principal, I have to look after functions related to administration, academics and make sure that everything goes as per the requirements of the Medical Council of India. Since I am heading the college, I have to plan the purchase of equipment, for modernization and patient care. As Director, I am responsible for policy planning and regulate certain other aspects of the hospital.

How do you do justice to your role as a doctor and a professor?
It keeps me very busy and I try to do manage things and do justice to my dual role. I have to put in long hours at work every day, which is at times goup to 11 hours. Primarily, as a doctor I attend to the needs of patients and do endoscopic procedures and as a teacher my emphasis is to provide teaching and training facilities of an exceptionally high standard to the medical students.

With Internet access and increase in awareness people are taking to self- medication. To what extent is it right?
As a doctor, I would say that up to a certain point self-medications are fine. For example taking medicine for headache, mild diarrhea, slight fever, body ache, acidity etc. But beyond that one should always consult a doctor or a specialist.

There has been news about the misuse of antibiotics. How can the masses be made aware of their right use?
First of all over the counter medication, which the chemists give should not be allowed. There should be strict guidelines to dispense medicines only on prescription. The other thing is there should be scientific protocols, different checks at different levels. Even in hospitals there should be a policy for prescribing certain antibiotics for certain diseases. One should reserve the top of the line antibiotics for serious infections or infections which are difficult to treat. The other reason, which is causing resistance, is the use of antibiotics with animal husbandry and agricultural department, that too in inappropriate dosage. It brings in cross-resistance. Lastly, I believe there should be rational use of antibiotics. Right dose, right duration, right antibiotic for a particular patient is very important to check misuse of any medicine.

Over the years health facilities are becoming costlier and most people can’t afford to be treated in a private hospital. How can it be ensured that the doctors prescribe generic medicines? And at the same time how can healthcare facilities be made affordable?
Firstly, I would like to clarify that doctors do prescribe generic medicines. Our main concern is with the quality monitoring of the generic medicines. We don’t know who is manufacturing those medicines and if they are following the right manufacturing techniques. Has the drug been tested and is it equally effective as a branded medicine? As a doctor, these are some issues that we have to look at before building confidence and faith in generic medicines. If I don’t have the certification, how can I prescribe generic medicines.

Talking about making healthcare cheap is actually a difficult situation. In our country, 70 to 80 per cent of the healthcare is provided by a private setup and only about 20 to 30 per cent is provided by the government sector. If a private person is investing in technology, which is costing crores of rupees, how do you expect him to give it at below market value, after all a machine has a life. Then economics come into play. Chandigarh has very good facilities and we need more hospitals like PGI and GMCH 32. More and more government setups should come up to make healthcare facilities affordable and available for poor patients.

The ratio of patients and doctors is not meeting the current requirements as there are limited seats in medical colleges. What is the government doing in this regard?
As per the WHO recommendations, the right ratio is one doctor for 1000 people. At the moment, India has about one doctor for 1900 people. India produces about 50,000 doctors every year but we need much more. That is why the GOI has taken the initiative to open more medical colleges and increase the number of seats in medical colleges. This is already in process. But you see roughly one third of the doctors that we produce leave India. That’s a different issue though. We are actually the largest producers of doctors in the world. And it’s sad to see that most of them are not serving their country.
Private hospitals are poaching competent doctors from government hospitals by offering them additional perks and better packages. What do you have to say about this ongoing situation?
At the moment government hospitals have a really good salary structure. It’s just by the rank and the position you hold that the doctors are paid and it’s not that doctors are paid according to their competence. But I believe sticking to a government hospital or moving to a private setup is completely an individual choice. All I would like to say is that it’s a point of debate.

GMCH 32 was set up initially to cater to the needs to Chandigarh patients. But due to its good reputation people from Himachal, Punjab, Delhi and J&K are coming to get treated. Is overcrowding/pressure on doctors at the hospital affecting the UT patients?
When it comes to a doctor, one patient is like any other patient. In healthcare services our hospital has set new standards and attracts a large number of patients not only from Chandigarh but also from the neighboring states. Of course, we have a large number of patients coming everyday but we try to do the best under the given circumstances. The hospital has well-developed services across all specialties and is now in the process of developing super-specialties to provide comprehensive healthcare facilities. The GMCH 32, as a medical college is ranked among the top 20 medical colleges out of a total of about 400 colleges across the country.

A doctor’s message for the masses in general?
I would say it is very important to be healthy. Eat well and in case of any illness always consult a doctor or a specialist.