Patna: Four years after its announcement, the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance’s much-hyped Heat Action Plan has failed to take off.
Amid the raging heatwave in Bihar, the state government has only issued instructions like last year on preparation, mitigation and response activities to the districts. For example, the state government is yet to set up a separate or dedicated ward for heatstroke patients in government hospitals. The government has neither constructed resting sheds for MGNREGA workers nor made provisions for drinking water.
According to the programme’e department-wise action plan, the health department should ensure that separate beds/isolation wards are earmarked at PHCs, district hospitals, medical colleges and private hospitals (if the need arises) for the treatment of heatstroke patients. Besides, the department should ensure that adequate quantities of lifesaving medicines, fluids and ORS are stocked at all PHCs, HSCs, district hospitals and medical colleges.
Patna district civil surgeon Dr Vibha Kunari Singh told Newsclick that no special wards for heatstroke or sunstroke patients has been set up at government hospitals. A dedicated ward for heatstroke was not set up due to lack of space and infrastructure at the hospitals. “We are working to set up a special heatstroke ward in each hospital with the new building for hospitals coming up.” Singh admitted that heatstroke patients are being treated in general wards or in the emergency depending on their condition.
Newsclick contacted more than a dozen PHCs in Patna, Gaya and Aurangabad districts, where officials said that no separate beds or wards have been assigned for heatstroke patients. “We have been directed to provide treatment to heatstroke patients but there is no plan to set up separate wards,” an official on duty at a PHC in Gaya said.
Senior doctors said that the plan’s stress on separate beds and special wards for heatstroke patients is an essential part of treatment. They pointed out that heatstroke could be life-threatening if not treated on time. A heatstroke patient needs an airconditioned room, ice-cold water , health monitors and other facilities.
In 2019, hospitals were unable to deal with the increasing number of heatstroke patients as around 150 died mainly in Gaya, Aurangabad and Patna.
A Panchayat Rozgar Sewak of MGNREGA posted in Madanpur block, Gaya, said that the plan exists only on paper. “There is no facility for drinking water and resting sheds for the poor MGNREGA workers,” he said.
As per the plan, the rural development department should “ensure resting sheds, drinking water, availability of ORS at all the MGNREGA working sites. There are only a few public drinking water spots despite the plan making it compulsory at all construction sites.
The state government has noted that Bihar has been facing intense heatwaves since 2005. After the temperature crossed 42-43 degrees in several districts in the state in the last few days, the government was forced to advise people to take care while going out during day time. Local IMD officials predict that the temperature may touch 44 degrees at a few places in the next two to three days.