BHUBANESWAR: Once a centre of excellence, the sickle cell nodal centre at Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (VIMSAR), Burla is in dire need of institutional strengthening. Started in 2010 with an initial budget of `1.5 crore, this centre caters to the needs of patients from 12 districts of the State besides Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Sickle cell disease is a major cause of childhood and maternal mortality in western parts of the State.
Since old equipment like automated CBC, biochemistry analyser, gel documentation system and a few others are likely to become decommissioned in next few years, new systems worth around `one crore are required to replace these. ‘’The nodal centre needs submarine gel electrophoresis system, milli-Q water generating system, ice flaking machine, heavy duty photocopier, auto feeder scanner, digital spectrophotometer, dissecting microscope, automated protein electrophoresis system, DNA sequencer and automated CBC machine with reticulocyte facility,’’ project coordinator Dr PK Mohanty stated in a report sent to the Director of National Health Mission (NHM).
While four posts including one assistant surgeon and three laboratory technicians are vacant at the nodal centre, 10 posts of laboratory technician of 12 and one post of programme associate are lying vacant at the district level sickle cell units. Apart from the nodal centre, a sickle cell institute is operational in a separate building on VSS medical campus since February, 2016. The sickle cell project has collaborated with anthropological survey of India for advanced tests including genetic sequencing and editing needed for diagnosis and research.
Since the low dose hydroxyurea therapy established by this institute is highly effective for the disease, adequate funds need to be placed with Odisha State Medical Corporation Limited (OSMCL) to supply the only disease modifying drug to the sickle cell institute. While 1,35,557 persons have visited the outdoor since 2010, blood samples of 55,956 have been examined of which 13,754 were diagnosed with sickle cell patients and 15,794 found with sickle cell trait. The patients are provided free treatment and free medicine. Further expansion of screening has been planned by conducting at least 40 health camps in all 12 districts and micro plan has been prepared at district level. ‘’The dream to make it a full fledged unit will remain distant unless necessary funds are provided by the State to maintain the present activity and upgrade in future,’’ the report stated.