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Amid HP’s Poor Healthcare, Surgeries on Hold at Shimla’s Zonal Hospital

There has been no interim arrangement to keep operation theatres running at the DDU zonal hospital till the appointment of new anaesthetists.

The zonal hospital in Shimla, which serves the residents of the capital city of Himachal Pradesh, has been missing anaesthetists for nearly a month, leading to all surgeries being put on hold. Only eye surgeries are being conducted at the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (DDUH) at present.

DDUH, which is one of the three zonal hospitals, receives a footfall of around 700-800 patients every day. Moreover, nearly 15-20 surgeries used to take place in a week, mainly comprising general and orthopaedic surgeries, in the hospital, The Tribune reported. However, there is no interim arrangement to keep operation theatres running till the appointment of new anaesthetists. 

The hospital used to have four anaesthetists but all of them left to complete their senior residency around a month back, the report said.

“We have apprised the government of the situation and have been assured that anaesthetists will be posted here shortly,” said Dr Lokinder Sharma of the hospital told The Tribune. He further said that DDUH was upgraded to a zonal level hospital but the staff strength has not been increased at par with the zonal hospitals at Mandi and Dharamsala.

A DDUH doctor told the newspaper on the condition of anonymity that the situation at the hospital was bad; in addition to the lack of anaesthetists, there was no doctor of surgery and most departments had only one doctor each.

The lack of doctors and adequate health infrastructure has become a major problem in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled hill state. It often poses significant risk to maternal health.

Kaushalya Chauhan told IndiaSpend that in January 2020, she had to walk for four kilometres in knee-deep snow and storm with her newborn in Shimla. Merely four days after the premature birth of her daughter, the staff at Shimla’s Kamla Nehru Hospital asked her to vacate her bed for the waiting patients, according to the report.

Chauhan hails from Koti village, around 30 kms from Shimla city, however she faced labour pain prematurely in the eighth month of her pregnancy. Since the Community Health Centre at Koti in Shimla district was not able to handle an emergency delivery like Chauhan’s, the couple went to DDUH. But the zonal hospital was not prepared to deal with the emergency delivery even though DDUH was fully equipped, and referred her to Kamla Nehru State Hospital while she was in severe labour pain. The Kamla Nehru Hospital, which was a few more kilometres away, and there was no ambulance available, she said, as per the report published by the Scroll.

“We do have certain limitations when it comes to premature deliveries,” Shivika Mittal, a gynaecologist at the zonal hospital, told the Scroll. The hospital does not have a neonatal intensive care unit.

According to a World Health Organization report, India accounted for 12% of the world’s total maternal deaths in 2017, following Nigeria (23%). India’s maternal mortality ratio was 103 deaths per 1,00,000 live births for the period 2017-’19, as per government data, Scroll reported. Besides, the third United Nations Sustainable Development Goal aims at reducing global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.

Even today, the Community Health Centre at Koti remains unequipped to handle deliveries such as Chauhan’s. It has inadequate staff strength, beds and equipment, and fails to provide even basic medical facilities to the locals, the report said.

Moreover, Shimla district has only about 2.5 doctors per 10,000 persons, according to a study based on the 2011 District Statistical Abstract of Himachal Pradesh. The ratio stands in contrast to the World Health Organization-mandated standard of 10 doctors per 10,000 persons.

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