Editor's Note: BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur witnessed a spate of tragic deaths of children in its neo-natal ICU and encephalitis ward last year. The poor state of affairs at this medical college which serves a population of over two crore in eastern Uttar Pradesh hogged headlines when more than 20 kids died within 24 hours owing to shortage of oxygen at the facility. A year later, a reality check was conducted to assess the situation on the ground. The outcome of the study, which is covered in a three-part series, paints a grim picture in the face of tall claims of improvement in healthcare for kids made by the Uttar Pradesh government. This is the second part of the series.
Gorakhpur: Vishwanath Yadav, a resident of Bhatpar Rani in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh, is praying for his grandson. His inconsolable daughter-in-law is also with him.
Yadav's three-month-old grandson Golu has been admitted to the encephalitis ward of Baba Raghav Das Medical College for the last seven days and his condition has remained critical.
Yadav complains that doctors have not been paying proper attention to the children.
"Doctor log ek baar subah aate hai round lagane aur fir chale jaate hai. Din bhar keval nurse log injection lagati hai aur dawa diya karti hai. Shaam ko badi mam (Mahima Mittal, paediatrics department head) fir round par aati hai aur sab dekh kar chali jaati hai. Baccho ka ye log theek se dhyan nahi rakh rahe hai (Doctors come once in the morning, make a round and leave. The rest of the day, it’s the nurses who give injections and medication. Mahima Mittal comes for a round in the evening. These people are not caring for the children properly),” he says.
Where are the doctors?
From Yadav’s observation, the encephalitis department is commanded by junior doctors and the paramedical staff, that too at a time when the brain fever is on the rise and claiming victims daily.
"It has been seven days, yet no doctor has told us the condition of our child. All they do is ask us to bring this and that medicine or injection and insist that everything is alright. But if everything’s fine, then why did three children die in the last one week?” he asks, narrating that the doctors usually shoo him away when he goes for a query, saying there are not enough doctors in the ward.
Yadav’s concern about the lack of senior doctors is echoed by Mukesh Kumar, a paramedical staff in the ward.
He admits that the staff has to work for over 10 hours a day. "We do our duties for 10 hours and sometimes for 12 hours. We do not complain but senior doctors should think of us also. We know there is a shortage of doctors but there are many junior residents who can look after the patients too," he adds.
What’s ailing the hospital?
The strength of doctors in the paediatrics department of BRD Medical College has gone from bad to worse in the past one year, such that 16 posts are currently vacant and the administration is hard pressed to find qualified practitioners.
According to principal Ganesh Kumar, the vacant posts include three associate professor posts and 13 senior resident posts.
But, he assures, there is no need to panic.
"The college is 16 doctors short in the paediatrics department but still the best of treatment is provided to patients. In case of an emergency, doctors — junior and senior residents — are called from other colleges. There is no need to create panic and the media should act responsibly," the principal insists.
When asked the reason for the shortage, Kumar says all vacant positions are part of the National Health Mission (NHM) and under it, doctors are paid a lesser salary.
"The pay of an assistant professor in the NHM is around Rs 44,000. New doctors who have invested time and money in their education do not want to join the NHM positions and prefer private institutes as they get better remuneration there,” says the principal, reiterating that the lack of doctors should not be made an issue.
He proceeds to talk about the facilities in the encephalitis ward - 343 beds compared with just 148 last year and the latest equipment. Last year was when the alleged shortage of oxygen at the hospital had made news after the death of around 60 children there.
“We have got enough oxygen and it keeps coming every week. We know the value of each life and have been doing our best to serve the patients. The dearth of doctors is no worry to us, and this year by God's grace we have fewer encephalitis patients because rainfall was late and the Uttar Pradesh government took adequate steps to uproot the disease from this area,” Kumar says.
Why the secrecy?
Strangely, the medical college since last year’s tragedy that brought it much bad press, has stopped issuing the medical bulletin giving out the number of deaths due to encephalitis – a practice it had continued for the last 10 years.
Equally foreboding was the silence of the doctors — including the nodal officer, head of the department and even the principal — on the exact number of casualties.
Kumar did reveal that it is on the Yogi Adityanath-led state government’s instruction that the medical bulletin was stopped.
“We now release the data only to the chief medical officer (CMO) and are just following the orders of the principal health secretary. We are not authorised to issue the death toll per day," he says, adding that “it was a very right decision by the government as the media created a lot of panic over the deaths earlier”.
“Without understanding the difference between various diseases, mediapersons wrote whatever they could and made this hospital infamous. The fact is that the medical college is one of those health institutes in eastern Uttar Pradesh that has been providing quality care to patients,” the principal adds.
Gorakhpur CMO Shrikant Tiwari confirmed that the hospital has been sending the numbers regularly. "We have assigned the work of bringing the statistics to a clerk. Our office gets the casualty figures from across the district and we compile and send them to the state,” he says.
The statistics are carried every day to CMO from BRD as a handwritten note on a piece of paper, which is neither a letterhead nor carries any official stamp or signature.
But activist Manoj Singh sees the government orders as an attempt to stop the media from covering a major health concern in the state. "This is nothing but a diktat by the government to end transparency. We all know the state has been making efforts to curb encephalitis but nothing justifies the stopping of the medical bulletin," he points out.
The author is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.
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Updated Date: Aug 16, 2018 19:05:41 IST