Hospital says GE took 4 hrs for a 30-sec job

Officials say it should not have taken over 30 seconds to disable machine's magnetic field, but the switch malfunctioned.

The Tata Memorial Hospital on Tuesday blamed GE Healthcare for the horrific accident at the hospital's research and treatment centre in Navi Mumbai last week in which two of its employees suffered serious injuries when one of them entered the MRI room carrying a gas cylinder, triggering the machine's powerful magnetic field. 

At a press conference on Wednesday, a day after this newspaper broke the story, senior officials of Tata Memorial-run Advance Centre or Treatment Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) in Khargar said that because a switch to disable the machine's magnetic field malfunctioned, it took engineers four hours to disengage the two employees - a ward boy and a technician -- stuck to the machine, when it should not have taken more than 30 seconds. 

While the ward boy, Sunil Jadhav, 28, who brought the oxygen cylinder into the MRI room, fractured his elbow, the technician Swami Ramaiah, 35, who was sandwiched between Jadhav and the cylinder on the one side and the MRI machine on the other, suffered injuries to the lower part of his body, including a punctured urinary bladder and severe internal bleeding. 

The ACTREC officials, however, refused to dwell on how the ward boy was allowed to enter the MRI room of Tata Memorial-run Advance Centre or Treatment Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) in Khargar with a gas cylinder in the first place, saying an internal probe has been ordered to fix responsibility. 

The press conference held at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel was addressed by Director, ACTREC, Dr S VChiplunkar; chief administrative officer, Dr Venkat; deputy director Dr Sudip Gupta; and head of radiology Dr Nikhil Merchant. 

Dr Gupta said the MRI machine was bought just four years back and its last periodic maintenance was carried out by GE engineers just six months back. "We were shocked. Despite several attempts to switch off the machine, we just could not disable it. Ideally, we should have removed both of our employees in 30 seconds, but they were stuck for four hours," he said. 

Dr Gupta said that while ACTREC engineers had reached the spot within minutes of the mishap, they just could not switch off the machine. The manufacturer was informed immediately, but the GE engineer who arrived after an hour too could not turn the machine off. Nearly two-and-a-half hours after the incident, three more GE engineers arrived and replaced the existing electronic circuit with a new one and then switched off the machine. 

In the meantime, the hospital and tried everything - from getting nearly twenty people to try and pull the cylinder out and free up two men stuck, to tying a rope to the cylinder and trying wrench it out. When all efforts failed and the condition of one of the two employees stuck deteriorated he was administered IV fluids even as he lay suspended from the machine. 

Meanwhile, doctors are Bombay Hospital, where the ward boy and the technician are being treated, said both are out of danger now. Swamy was operated upon on Tuesday evening by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Parag Munshi and plastic surgeon Dr Vinay Jacob. 

Urologist Dr Sadanand Thatte said bleeding in Ramaiah's urinary bladder is also under control. He will, however, remain on dialysis for a few weeks more.

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