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Bihar: Pathetic State of Govt Hospitals Unchanged Despite Tejashwi Yadav’s 60-day Ultimatum

Yadav had called a high-level meeting of all the civil surgeons in the state to ensure proper treatment in the government hospitals. During the meeting, he reportedly gave an ultimatum of 60 days to improve the conditions in the government-run hospitals.
Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav

Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav.  Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: Nothing seems to have changed on the ground despite Bihar deputy CM and Health Minister Tejashwi Yadav’s ultimatum to improve health facilities in the state within 60 days. This was reflected on Friday when the minister paid a surprise visit to the government-run sub-divisional hospital in Bagaha in West Champaran district only to face angry attendants.

When Yadav was at the hospital, the attendants accompanying patients expressed their grievances and informed him of the lack of basic facilities at the hospital – exposing the abysmal state of healthcare services in the state. They claimed that the doctors have not been visiting the patients. Due to the alleged unavailability of medicines, they had been asked to purchase medicines from outside. Some had been asked to go outside for diagnostic tests as well.

“Tejashwi expressed displeasure over the lack of sanitation, dirt, and filth on the hospital premises. When he entered different wards of the hospital, he was irate over the unhygienic conditions and the lack of cleanliness. He warned the hospital officials and the NGO working there,” an official of the health department who accompanied Yadav, told NewsClick.

Yadav was on a two-day visit to West Champaran when he went for an inspection of the government hospital. In the past two months, he has paid surprise visits to half a dozen hospitals in the state.

In early September this year, Yadav's surprise midnight visit to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) had revealed that doctors and medical staff were absent from duty and that there was a lack of sanitation on the premises. He even saw dogs inside the wards of the hospital, which is the largest government-run health centre in Bihar. During his interaction with patients and attendants, they complained about the unavailability of medicines and other facilities to him.

Taking serious note of it, Yadav had called a high-level meeting of all the civil surgeons in the state to ensure proper treatment in the government hospitals. During the meeting, he reportedly gave an ultimatum of 60 days to improve the conditions in the government-run hospitals.

But a month after the meeting, the minister visited Patna-based Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) on Thursday to check among other things treatment being provided to the dengue patients and found utter negligence. Several patients and their close relatives informed him that they were not getting medicines and were asked to purchase those from outside. They were even forced to buy a drinking water bottle, and nurses, during night duty, allegedly refused to attend to them.

After the visit, Yadav suspended Dr Vinod Kumar Singh, medical superintendent of NMCH, for negligence and failure to implement the health department's rules. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) Bihar has denounced the action.

Yadav revealed that 705 government doctors were absent from duty or work for more than six months over five to 12 years. Yet, they continued to draw their salary in Bihar. He made it clear that the government will act against such doctors.

Yadav admitted that there are several government doctors posted in rural health centres who hardly work there and instead continue to practice in urban areas.

Hundreds of doctors in government-run hospitals and other health facilities in Bihar went on strike on October 6 to protest against the government's decision to make biometric attendance mandatory. The state health department has directed officials of medical colleges and hospitals and concerned district officials to manage the situation amid the strike.

Contrary to the state government’s claims, the health infrastructure remains poor, with thousands of patients – primarily poor and marginalised – visiting OPDs and returning without treatment due to the unavailability of doctors and defunct ultrasound and X-Ray machines, etc. As per local dailies, in the past two months – since the new Mahagathbandhan government has been formed – hundreds of patients who queued up for hours in different districts had to return without even basic check-ups as doctors were absent. Similarly, several seriously ill patients could not be hospitalised due to either unavailability of medical staff or lack of equipment.

This year's latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has shone a light on the alarming healthcare situation in the state. The report stated that the government-run hospitals – mainly the district hospitals – suffered from a severe lack of resources, workforce, and plans for the growing population. It also clarified that the number of doctors, nurses and other paramedic staff was significantly less.

There was a persistent shortage of doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, and technicians in Bihar from 2014 to 2020. Still, the department did not publish the total vacancies to get them filled," the report said.

The report shows a shortfall of beds, ranging from 52% to 92%. Actual bed strength was not raised to the sanctioned level even after a decade passed.

According to the CAG report, the district government-run hospitals could hardly provide patients with basic health facilities. The situation was noticed during the audit of the functioning of hospitals in five districts - Biharsharif, Hajipur, Jehanabad, Madhepura, and Patna, for the period 2014-15 to 2019-20.

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