But, the number of monthly admissions was about 30% of the total monthly admissions during the pre-COVID-19 days
Although the State-run Victoria hospital affiliated to the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) was converted into a dedicated COVID-19 facility ever since the pandemic hit Karnataka in March, the functioning of the Mahabodhi Burns Ward in the hospital has not been hit.
Doctors said while nearly 60 new burns admissions were seen every month all through the pandemic, an equal number of patients visited the hospital for wound care (dressing) and follow-up treatment. The 54-bed burns ward is the only such government-run facility in the State.
While the number of monthly admissions (during the pandemic) was about 30% of the total monthly admissions during the pre-COVID-19 days, doctors said most of the patients landed in a critical condition.
“Despite the pandemic, we functioned as usual with all COVID-19 precautions in place. With just one skin donation, we had to manage using patches of skin from the patients themselves for grafting,” K.T. Ramesh, head of the department of plastic surgery in BMCRI, told The Hindu on Saturday.
Pointing out that a majority of cases reported off late were due to accidental burns, Dr. Ramesh, who also heads the skin bank at the hospital, said, “The trend is gradually changing. We are seeing less number of suicidal and homicidal burns now.”
However, Satya K. of Vimochana, a women’s rights organisation that has been co-ordinating with doctors at the burns ward, said most homicidal cases were “turned into” accidental burns cases by the victims’ families.
“Although they are registered as accidental burns, most cases are homicidal or suicidal attempts. What is worrisome is the fact that the number of women who suffer burn injuries are as high as 60% and almost all of them are associated with domestic violence. There is a hidden story behind every such case, but families hesitate to file cases. Victims lose family support as well as social security soon after they file a case against the offenders,” she said.
Recalling a 21-year-old woman’s case, who was abused and harassed by her in-laws for dowry in Ramamurthynagar and was admitted to the burns ward on October 15, Ms. Satya said, “The woman had suffered 25% burns after her in-laws, along with her husband, allegedly poured kerosene over her and tried to burn her. There was a delay in filing a case. The family registered a case two days after her admission.”
“Apart from dowry and suicidal attempts, we have also seen acid attacks during the pandemic,” said Donna Fernandes, secretary, Vimochana.
Despite this, there has been no movement on the draft policy for prevention and treatment of burns and rehabilitation and empowerment of women who have suffered burn injuries. The draft was jointly formulated by the State Health Department and Vimochana in 2017, she said.
Several burns survivors, who are being provided prosthetics, pressure garments, medicine and rations apart from educational support for their children by Vimochana, came together at an event on Saturday to express their gratitude to the organisation.
G. Jeevitha, mother of two girl children, said she still curses the fateful day on which she got married to her maternal uncle. “I was constantly harassed for not giving birth to a male child, until one day, in a fit of anger, my husband poured kerosene on me and burnt me in our house at Yelahanka in 2015. During the pandemic, I had to close down the small boutique that I was running,” she said.
Saraswathi, 31, mother of two children whose husband poured acid in a fit of rage in March and later ended his life, said it would not have been possible to make ends meet during the past few months if not for help from Vimochana.
Two male survivors, who had suffered accidental burns and lost their hands, were provided prosthetics by the organisation with corporate funding.