The Arthur Road jail in Mumbai will soon be equipped with telemedicine facilities for specialised ailments like skin infections, which over 2500 jail inmates suffer from. This move, to be launched in co-ordination with the state-run JJ hospital, will reduce the burden on the local police escort staff that accompanies a prisoner every time he is taken to a hospital. Secondly, the risk of a prisoner running away in transit will also be taken care of.
Prior to Arthur road jail, certain prisons like Nashik had been equipped with the telemedicine facility for basic problems that the inmates suffered from, like cold and cough.
Additional director general of police (prisons) Meeran Borwankar said, “We do have video conferencing (VC) facilities available in jails that are used to produce inmates before the courts in certain cases. The facility lies idle other than during the court hours – 11 to 5 pm. We have decided to use it for providing telemedicine facilities from 9 to 11 am.”
She added, “The facility at Nashik was stage 1 of equipping prisons with telemedicine facilities where basic medical care is provided to inmates. The Arthur road-JJ hospital tie-up is stage 2 where specialised services will be provided as well.” However, in cases where a prisoner has to be admitted to a hospital, due procedure will be followed.
According to Priyanka Mane, who manages the telemedicine facility at the JJ hospital, it was launched in 2008. It uses a software that helps the hospital to link the services of the specialist doctors with that of the general doctors who have patients in far-flung areas of the states. “For example, a person may be suffering from a skin ailment. His local doctor, who does not specialise in that area, can video-conference with a dermatologist here. The dermatologist can view the skin problem and suggest a medicine or change in diet.” The software helps to maintain record of individual patients so that the next time one comes to consult, the dermatologist knows the patient’s history.
The Maharashtra prison department wrote on the telemedicine facility to JJ hospital around a year back, but they did not follow up, a source said. Earlier this year, letters were again exchanged between the two and on July 29, there was a trial run of the facility. The Arthur road jail superintendant, chief medical officer and 20 inmates with skin ailments consulted with Dr Ratnakar Kamat from the JJ hospital.
“The trial run went well and the superintendant was happy with the result. We, however, gave them a list of things that would be needed to start the facility on a regular basis. The list includes the telemedicine software, a separate server, high resolution camera, a high bandwidth internet and a prison official whose service will be required during the teleconferencing,” said Mane. After the prison department fulfills these requirements, the facility will start.
Inspector General (prisons) Bipin Kumar Singh said that the facility aimed to link all nine central prisons and 38 district prisons across the state after tie-ups with six hospitals, including three Mumbai-based hospitals and Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur hospitals.