Nanded-based Aditya Pimperkhede was two years old when he was first diagnosed with hearing disability. It took his parents two years to get him treated. The boy, now four, managed to undergo a cochlear implant recently, after three organisations contributed for his surgery. Like him, 300 economically disadvantaged children have undergone cochlear implants at KEM hospital through donations, the highest for a government hospital in the city so far.
KEM hospital began its cochlear implant programme in 2007, after which Nair, Sion and Cooper hospital followed suit. With one implant costing Rs 5.8 lakh, the hospital has tied up with at least 82 donors in the past to aid free surgeries for the hearing-impaired. “We went to Hyderabad for treatment. He could hear only a little bit. Because the treatment got delayed, even his speech has been affected,” Aditya’s father Ankush Pimperkhede said.
Aditya is now undergoing speech therapy that will continue for at least two years. According to Dr Hetal Marfatia, head of the ENT department at KEM, cochlear implant is necessary to aid proper hearing for a child born with this disability. “But the diagnosis should be as early as possible after birth. The more the delay, the more difficult it gets to help the child get accustomed to hearing and speech,” she said.
Satyam Shankar Raut (3) was detected with hearing disability when he was one year old. The Dahisar boy has not been able to undergo an implant yet. “I got donations from Tata Trust and Siddhivinayak Temple. But I am still short of Rs 30,000 for the surgery,” mother Sanjana Raut says. Funds remain the major impediment in the treatment of several patients. KEM hospital currently has a waiting list of 100 patients.
The process to get donations takes six to eight months. “Since cochlear implant surgery is not state-funded or listed for free for below poverty line patients under the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana (RGJAY), several patients are not able to afford the expensive procedure,” said Dr Samir Bhargava, ENT surgeon with Cooper hospital. The procedure is not covered by insurance companies. According to Bhargava, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh governments provide the surgery for free in government hospitals for poor patients.
On Thursday, KEM hospital invited the associate vice-president of Axis Bank and wife of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Amruta Fadnavis, to mark the ENT department’s completion of 300 cochlear implants. “With help of donors, lives of several patients have improved. Early detection will go a long way to help this disability,” Amruta Fadnavis said. According to Idzes Kundan, the additional municipal commissioner of the BMC, a budgetary provision for cochlear implant surgeries will be made in next year’s BMC budget. “We, till now, largely depended on donations to treat poor patients,” she said.