March 16, 2009

Biometric security, CCTVs, hydraulic gates at hospitals

The women in white at Parel's KEM Hospital scream to keep the steady stream of visitors in line. "Don't stand there. Keep moving,'' they constantly yell. Considering that KEM now has a new hydraulic gate, leaving only a small path for patients and their relatives, the women in white and their management skills are all important.

KEM Hospital is not the only one. Visitors to a hospital in Vile Parle got a rude shock last week when the management issued a new order: entry passes for visitors should be prepared by family members who are waiting it out with the patients inside. No more casual trooping into hospitals to catch up with an ailing friend or relative. At Jaslok Hospital on Peddar Road, an armed private guard in plainclothes buttresses the hospital's beefed-up security.

Evidently, terror has taken its toll. "Security is a serious issue. For me, it is as important a department as surgery or medicine,'' says Dr Sanjay Oak, dean of KEM Hospital and director of all civic teaching hospitals. No longer can visitors walk in freely without being frisked or their bags checked. Be it the upmarket Lilavati Hospital in Bandra or civic-run LTMG Hospital in Sion, security is a now an established medical protocol.

On a recent visit to Hinduja Hospital in Mahim, Lakshmi Wadekar (name changed) was surprised at the series of security checks she had to undergo. While she didn't mind the drill-walking through metal detectors, getting her bag checked and being scrutinised by CCTVs-she admits it was an unnerving experience while going to visit an ailing relative.

After Kasab walked into Cama Hospital and fired indiscriminately, the state government spent crores upgrading its premier JJ Hospital with CCTVs and boom barriers. While it is still easy to sneak in from one of the 22 gates, state administrators hope that the CCTVs can get a grab of most visitors.

Civic hospitals have also floated a tender for biometric security systems. "With this system, entry will be restricted to only close relatives,'' says a senior BMC official.

The Association of Hospitals (AOH), an umbrella organisation of over 35 charity-trust-run hospitals in the city, has also written to the DGP asking for link-up between a hospital and the nearest police station. "Within five minutes of the hospital sounding an alert, reinforcements should be rushed in,'' says AOH president Colonel Manesh Masand.

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