Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar seems oblivious about the poor health infrastructure in the state. This is evident from his statement two days ago, telling people that there was no need to go to private hospitals for treatment. Kumar went on to claim that government hospitals had all the facilities and were well equipped.
However, the poor health infrastructure in Bihar government hospitals was exposed once again recently after botched up cataract surgeries in a private hospital in Muzaffarpur, which hundreds of people, mostly the poor, were forced to turn to as the OPD of government-run hospitals had not conducted any such surgery in 2021.
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At least 16 poor women and men, most of them elderly, who underwent cataract surgery, lost their vision following severe infection. The private hospital has been accused of negligence and violation of basic guidelines for conducting such operations.
As per latest official data of the state health department, about 13,401 people visited the eye OPD of government-run Shri Krishna Medical College & Hospital (SKMCH) and Sadar Hospital in Muzaffarpur from January 2021 to December 10 ,2021. But no cataract surgery was conducted due to lack of an operation theatre and high-tech equipment.
According to the report sent to a Muzaffarpur civil surgeon, 4,701 people visited the eye OPD at Sadar Hospital, who were examined by eye specialists who recommended cataract surgery at private hospitals. Dr N K Chaudhary, deputy superintendent of Sadar Hospital, said he had informed the civil surgeon that no cataract surgery was being conducted as there was no operation theatre.
In fact, a senior district health official claimed that no cataract surgery had been conducted at Sadar Hospital after 2010 due to lack of basic facilities.
This issue was also raised in the ongoing Winter session of Parliament by Muzaffarpur MP Ajay Nishad.
SKMCH is the largest government health facility in flood-prone North Bihar and people are highly dependent on it for treatment. However, the ground reality is that about 8,700 people visited its eye OPD this year, but not a single cataract surgery was conducted despite the hospital having an eye department with specialist doctors.
Even an eye bank was set up in SKMCH last year, which has not started functioning so far due to manpower shortage.
Ironically, Muzaffarpur's civil surgeon Dr Vinay Kumar Sharma has no answer as to why no cataract surgery was conducted at SKMCH and Sadar Hospital this year, despite both receiving plenty of funds in the name of the prevention of blindness scheme of the Central government.
It was reported recently that the health department provided Rs 52 lakh to three private hospitals in Muzaffarpur for conducting cataract surgeries.
Last month, another health scandal by Muzaffarpur Eye hospital came to light when family members of some patients who underwent cataract surgery and developed severe pain, approached district health officials. They accused the eye hospital of conducting surgeries “in a hurry”.
In violation of the guidelines of the Medical Council of India, the Muzaffarpur Eye hospital is said to have conducted cataract surgeries on 65 people in one day (November 22, 2021). All the patients, most of them poor and landless, underwent surgery by a single doctor on a single operation table, allegedly without sanitation and sterilisation of equipment. This was revealed by a four-member probe team formed by the state health department on Tuesday. The team has found that 328 cataract surgeries were conducted at the Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital between November 22 to 27.
The SKMCH on Wednesday (December 15) discharged 14 patients ,whose eyes were removed after cataract surgery. They were admitted to SKMCH after developing severe infection following cataract surgery at Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital.
Early this month, the Muzaffarpur Eye Hospital had organised special cataract surgery camps without any agreement with the district health committee. The agreement had ended on March 31, 2021. It is mandatory for a private eye hospital to have an agreement for performing such surgeries.
About three years ago, too, poor health infrastructure in government-run hospitals in Muzaffarpur had hit headlines after acute encephalitis syndrome claimed the lives of more than 170 children. Last year and this year, too, COVID-19 exposed the cracks in the state health infrastructure.
The Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance government does not seem to have made any effort to improve healthcare infrastructure. The reality is bad on the ground, as there is shortage of doctors, paramedical staff, equipment and non-functioning of high-tech machines in different hospitals, not to mention the poor condition of hundreds of primary health centres in rural areas.