Patients fume as machine in skin dept malfunctions

AIIMS doctors anticipate delay of minimum 2 months

Anuranjan Sen, preparing for competitive exams in Delhi, was relieved when he shifted from Kolkata to Delhi recently. Suffering from vitiligo, a medical condition that causes depigmentation of skin, he had found hope in the dermatology department of AIIMS. He lives close to the hospital and the treatment to activate pigmentation came cheap there.

But his joy was short lived on his very first visit to the hospital. Doctors told him that the Narrowband UVB Phototherapy equipment — used to activate pigmentation— has been non-functional for the past few months.

Now, he has no choice but to go for the PUVA therapy which the other patients have undergone. According to them the oral medication during the therapy makes them feel uneasy.

Oral meds not needed

However, no oral medication is required for the Narrowband UVB Phototherapy.
Depigmentation leaves portions of skin with symmetric white patches. Regular phototherapy activates pigmentation and slowly brings back the original colour of the skin.

While officers at the hospital either refused to throw light on the status of the machine or were unresponsive, a doctor said it will take a minimum of two months before the machine is set in order.

Apart from vitiligo, the machine is also used to treat atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis and other photo responsive skin disorders.
The low cost of treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences draws people with skin problems.

“The treatment cost Rs 3,000 per month at private hospitals in Jaipur. At AIIMS it comes down to around Rs 400,” said Ruchi Ruwatia, mother of a 14-year-old girl, who had come for treatment.

Though the long queues for the treatment every morning are frustrating, the low cost made the hospital a popular draw among those with skin problems.

Patient narrates woes

“I had to visit the department every alternate day for the phototherapy and yet I had no problems despite having to compromise my classes. I have been waiting for the machine to be functional ever since doctors told me three months ago about its unavailability,” said Imran Ahmed, an engineering student in Delhi.

Imran hails from Patna was surprised to find that a big hospital like AIIMS has not yet rectified the problem.  “Even my friend at a government hospital in Patna is able to get the treatment. I had hoped for better facilities at AIIMS,” he said.

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