Patna: The unavailability of the anti-rabies vaccine (ARV) in the the state-run hospitals in Patna has left the people from economically marginalised sections in the state hopeless. This has also revealed the apathetic attitude of the officials managing healthcare in the state towards its poor.
Satyendra Kumar, Firoz Mansoori, Mahesh Yadav and Bhola Paswan are among the many who were shocked by the unavailability of the ARV after visiting the government hospitals after suffering from dog bites. It was a compulsion for poor like Satyendra, Firoz, Mahesh and Bhola, to visit the government hospitals in the hope of getting a free of cost shot of AVR as they cannot afford to purchase costly ARV from the open market.
It should be noted that a complete dose of ARV costs Rs 2,100 in the market despite the fact that it is one of the vaccines provided free of cost by the government on paper.
The unavailability of the basic vaccine in the government hospitals has come to light at a time when the much-hyped COVID-19 vaccination drive is underway in the state.
A few days back, Satyendra, a daily wage labourer and Firoz, a rickshaw puller, both residents of Phulwari Sharif in the state capital, had visited the Phulwari Sharif Community Health Centre and Gardani Bagh government hospital for ARV but were informed that the vaccine was not available. They were advised to visit the Patna Medical College and Hospital for the same. However, the officials at the prestigious PMCH also informed the two that ARV was not in stock in the hospital.
Recounting his experience, Firoz told NewsClick, “I was sure that I would get ARV in the government hospital. But it was not available there. It came as a shock for me, as I could not afford the vaccine from outside. What can I do except seek help from some well off families to donate money to purchase ARV from market?”
Mahesh, a construction worker and Bhola, a roadside vendor, also had similar experiences when they had approached PMCH for ARV. They were left with no other option but to borrow money from others to purchase the basic vaccine.
According to health officials, dozens of people are bitten by street dogs in Patna daily and they have been facing similar problems for the last several days. Most of them, mainly those who can afford , have no option but to purchase ARV from open market or get it at private clinics or hospitals by spending money from their own pocket.
For example, Sujit Choudhary, a social activist from Patna’s Rajabazar area, had visited Gardani Bagh government hospital and PMCH for ARV, but was turned away. He was forced to purchase ARV from market. “I cannot take a risk, so I purchased ARV from the market because government hospitals do not have the basic vaccine shot in their stock. One can only imagine about the availability of other essential life saving drugs in government run hospitals,” he said.
He added that the vaccine was not available either at LNJP hospital in Shastri Nagar or at Guru Gobind Singh hospital in Patna city.
Ravi Kumar, a teenager, who was bitten by a dog while playing cricket in a field near Buddha colony, told NewsClick that his family was forced to purchase ARV from the market.
Ironically, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hardly misses an opportunity to claim that the NDA government led by him has improved health services and provides quality medical treatment in the state. State health minister Mangal Pandey, too, has repeatedly stated that there is adequate supply of anti-rabies vaccine in the government run hospitals.
Contrary to it, a senior officer of the PMCH told NewsClick on condition of anonymity, that ARV was not available for some time and concerned top authorities have been informed to provide the vaccine soon.
Reportedly, the shortage of ARV is not limited to the state’s capital but is common in the government hospitals in different districts as well as sub-divisional and block level hospitals.
Despite repeated attempts, NewsClick could not reach Pratyay Amrit, principal secretary of health, for his comment on the issue, as he did not pick up the phone. Other health department officials refused to comment saying they are not authorised to speak, except Amrit, who is also known as a confidante of Nitish Kumar.