ROCK STEADY: Dr Shobna Nilin Suktankar, (left) has been working in the Physiotherapy department for the last 32 years, since 1984! She still has smiling face, encouraging words and inexhaustible patience for all her patients… watching patients improve is what keeps her motivated! Deepak Zarmekar (above) is a favourite with many patients; he has more than five years of experience here and is a tower of strength and encouragement, always on the lookout to see where he can help and to advice people on the best way to use the different instruments, even without being asked


A recent visit to the GMC revealed a visibly cleaner GMC and the discovery that there is a very useful, spacious and efficient Physiotherapy Department here which is open only for GMC patients…

FEW hospitals no matter how corporately-driven invest in a state-of-the-art physiotherapy department. Perhaps they know not how useful it is for both preventive as well as post-trauma therapeutic healthcare. The Goa Medical College is Goa’s PHYSIOTHERAPY AT GMCpremier public hospital with a distinguished history and it’s always a mixed pleasure to visit it… sometimes as a patient and sometimes as a non-patient.
A recent visit to find out more about Dr Edwin Gomes’ Senior Citizen services in the OPD building yielded more than just the information that the GMC’s ODP complex is sporting a far more cleaned up look than ever before, although elsewhere one may get the feeling that the more things change, the more they remain the same in some respects. That means it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference!
Surprisingly on March 24, Saturday morning, the OPD building wasn’t in such a rush and yes, now there are five counters where one may stand in line to make a case paper: Outstation Patients Male/Female, counters for Goans Male/Female and a Senior Citizens counter which doubles and trebles for several things. Women make their way to the exclusive counter for them but there’s nobody at the assigned window and if they’re senior citizens they’re too timid to ask questions. They wait patiently until someone tells to get into the Male queue where they will be attended to… last of course. Men have right of way even at the GMC, never mind all the beti padao, beti bachao hype and the rest of it.
Mr Sunil at the Senior Citizens counter entertains me after an impressive length of time and computes my case paper. Collects Rs 100 for a lovely super glossy paper case paper, a far cry from the old cheap frail newsprint-styled patients’ case papers of old! The quality of this case paper is worth all of Rs 100, perhaps. No receipt for Rs 100 is given.
Making my way up the stairs to the first floor I find Dr Gomes, busy with his senior citizen patients. He is Head of Medicine and has played no mean role in setting up the GMC’s Saturday morning program exclusively for senior citizens’ benefit at the Out-Patients Department about two years ago.
The old crush of too many senior citizens in need of advice and care has been streamlined and between him and another

AUTHOR: Dr Rekha Poduval is the author of seven books in Marathi, all about patients and their health

colleague they spend at least 15 minutes or more with each senior and visit with some 40 seniors every Saturday, with an appointment register and a help team which also clues patients up on physiotherapy exercises if directed by the doctors on duty.
Dr Diedre Monteiro tells me every senior registered with them gets an appointment at least once in three months. Since I need to be treated for arthritis and a baker’s cyst which is bothering me, Dr Gomes introduces me to his help team who show me a few exercises I may do, but really I must go to the Orthopedic Department and get an appointment with HOD of Orthopedics Dr Shivanand Bandekar, “He will give you a letter to use the Physiotherapy department where various therapies may help you…although for the cyst may require surgery first.” Nervously I ask if there are no non-surgical ways to deal with my baker’s cyst? Please get an appointment with Orthopedics department, I’m told, and that’s it. By then it was almost noon so I decided to forget about myself and do what I was there for, look up the full-fledged Physiotherapy department at the GMC at OPD No18.
A smiling Dr Rekha Balkrishnan Poduval is in charge here and she’s quite a veteran of many years. She tells me their physiotherapy department has been around for more than 30 years. In the early years it was located at Panaji but has since shifted to the new GMC complex where at OPD No 18 now they offer a range of physiotherapies for trauma and other recoveries, “There is electrical stimulation, Tens machine, infra and interferential machines, ultrasound, shortwave

MECHANICAL: The department has equipment that helps patients undergo ‘passive’ physiotherapy also

diathermy, infrared (rays)…we get about four to five stroke patients daily to work on. The rest may be accident cases, also there are many cases of cervical/lumber spondolosis, frozen shoulder, osteoarthritis, most trauma injury cases, burns cases, plastic surgery cases…” Spending a day at the GMC’s Physiotherapy Department can be very educative!
Dr Poduval added, “It’s a free service for GMC patients and I have seen patients come in on a stretcher, then in a wheelchair and finally they walk in for their physiotherapy…most are post-surgery accident cases and they have to work on wrists, knees or other leg injuries; some are stroke patients who too have to work on muscles to coax them back to life…”
OPD No 18 sees about 25 to 30 new patients daily and old patients may number about 50. New patients come daily. Look around and see the various kinds of physiotherapy exercise set-ups, props, gadgets put up, many of them in-built in the wall…like the wheel for frozen shoulder exercising. One patient was flat out on his tummy and with the help of a pulley-like arrangement lifting his legs up alternately (a stroke patient)…others were lifting kilo-weight sandbags on their ankles. There is an 18-strong staff of physiotherapists, internees and some were engaged in hands-on therapy with a few patients with problem wrists, fingers or hands.
A patient’s wife grumbles about her husband, “He was doing so well and got to walking…then he became lazy and stopped

WALL TO WALL: The walls are lined with various tools that help patients stretch and exercise under the expert guidance of the staff

coming! Now he is back in his wheelchair and we have returned here…he should not have stopped the treatment the moment he felt a little better! Let the doctor decide…” The cheerful Dr Rekha Paduval tells me she’s written seven books in Marathi and they are “stories about health problems and patients! There are such positive stories you will be amazed.” She takes me to a semi-closed area and shows me a few “quadriceps and isometric exercises for my knees”— the first to do with putting a rolled towel in the crook of my knee and pressing down! Another entails putting a sandbag at my ankle and lifting it till I get a straight line!
She tells me to do the exercises at home whenever I’m doing nothing. But for my baker’s cyst, “You

FRIENDLY FACES: The regulars get to know each other as they use the various equipment around the department. Some of the equipment is getting old and needs maintenance and sometimes people have to wait for their turn, but a spirit of camaraderie exists and people are quietly supportive of each other

will have to meet Dr Bandekar.” If I have any new ideas I may tell him and he is the kind who will executive them for he is a dynamic HOD of Orthopedics, they have been doing computerized total knee replacement surgeries for some years now.
It was an altogether enlightening visit to the GMC after a long time. The food at the popular canteen nearby the OPD areas is still serving a lot of junk food. Perhaps BJP’s Health Minister Viswajit Rane who’s been upgrading several things at the GMC would like to look into this aspect of healthcare in Goa? If several of Mumbai’s hospitals are now paying attention to the nutritional quality of food served to patients, why can’t a smart state like Goa do it? Better nutrition is better preventive healthcare! It means no white bread/white rice/biscuits and oily, salty savouries and junk food in hospital canteens for a start?


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