Chhattisgarh sterlisation deaths: Rotten healthcare system continues to play havoc

The sterilization camp that left 13 women dead and many battling for life has exposed the rotten healthcare system in Chhattisgarh, yet again.

Parivesh Mishra November 12, 2014 11:51:31 IST
Chhattisgarh sterlisation deaths: Rotten healthcare system continues to play havoc

Raipur: The sterilization camp that left 13 women dead and many battling for life has exposed the rotten healthcare system in Chhattisgarh, yet again.

Without ruling out the negligence of the doctors, which the state government was quick to point fingers to, serious doubts are being raised about the quality of the medicines and equipment that are being used in the state-run hospitals. A serious demand is being made to investigate the politician-official- supplier- nursing home nexus in the state.

The state policy in the last few years underwent changes resulting in the centralized purchase of the drugs and equipment. Except for the emergency medicines at the district hospital level, all supplies are procured by a committee directly under the supervision of the state health minister. Now, with deaths making headlines other deficiencies in the healthcare system are coming into focus too. It is hardly surprising that certain sections have been demanding action against Health Minister Amar Agarwal.

Chhattisgarh sterlisation deaths Rotten healthcare system continues to play havoc

Bereaved families of the victims. PTI

“An FIR must be registered against the Chief Minister Raman Singh and the Health Minister Amar Agarwal who are directly responsible for the deaths,” says the state Congress president Bhupesh Baghel.

This is not the first time that the sorry face of the healthcare system in the state has come to the fore. One person had died and 30 lost their eye sight permanently after an eye camp in Balod in September 2011. The media reports then, among other reasons, had raised questions about the quality of fumigation and other basics in the makeshift operation theatre. The official statement attributed the incidence to the negligence on the part of the doctors.

Next year, 15 people lost eyesight in Bagbahra of Mahasamund district. Then it was repeated in Kawardha, then in Rajnandgaon then in Durg, then in Dhamtari. Over 70 people have lost eye sights in different eye camps organised by the state Health department in the last three years.

National Human rights Commission (NHRC) took suo motu cognizance of some of these camps and ordered that the state government pay or enhance compensation to the affected people.

“Healthcare in the state is a sham,” says TS Singh Deo, the leader of the opposition in the state.

NHRC had to come into picture in 2012 too when, what later got labeled as Chhattisgarh’s infamous ‘uterus scam’ broke out. In a series of private nursing homes across the state hysterectomies were performed on unsuspecting rural women to claim money from the health insurance scheme.

The penalty for the doctors for removing healthy organs from the body without the consent or knowledge of the patient and without any legitimate medical reasons: the Chhattisgarh Medical Council suspended their registrations for one year. No criminal investigations were launched against the doctors or the nursing homes, which pocketed huge sums of money by indulging in unnecessary and more importantly unwanted surgery. Under the government sponsored National Health Insurance Scheme, Rs 30,000 were allowed for hysterectomy procedure.

Health Minister Amar Agrawal, had informed the media in July 2012 that in the preceding eight months, hospitals and nursing homes had claimed Rs 2 crore under the insurance scheme (RSBY) for removing the wombs of 1,800 women. Nearly 7000 such surgeries were believed to have been conducted in the state by unscrupulous doctors. The modus operandi was to tell the patients, almost all from the rural areas, to choose between uterus removal and death due to cancer. Most of the patients were in the age group of 20-40 years.

After the scam surfaced, the state government formed a two-member high level committee to look into the allegation. The Medical Council had then taken action on the basis of the report of this committee. The then leader of opposition in the state Assembly, Ravindra Choubey had called the action a 'cover up' operation of the scam that involved officials of the health department also.

In July this year, the Chhattisgarh assembly was informed by the government that 81 people died due to jaundice in the state in the preceding one-and-a-half year. Sixty-seven of these deaths took place in Raipur within a span of 20 days. A PIL filed in the Bilaspur High Court, quoting media reports, however, claimed that the actual figure of deaths has not been disclosed by the government. The HC issued notices to the government which then came into action.

The filth that had seeped into the water supply system for spreading jaundice in places like Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur and practically every town and city of the state, is now in the news again for acting as cradle to mosquitoes spreading dengue and malaria.

There is a severe scarcity of qualified doctors in the state run hospitals. Healthcare, even basic, has always eluded people in the interiors of Chhattisgarh. The Maoist-led rebellion has only complicated matters. Deaths due to malaria and fever are still common, accounting for, by some estimates, 6% of disease-related fatalities. Accidental and trauma deaths are next on the list (5%), followed by diarrhea, jaundice and TB (2% each). With almost 17% of the 39,000 reported rural deaths (the actual figure being almost three times, as per Annual Health Survey data) due to reasons requiring medical intervention.

Presence of filth and lack of drainage has converted the interiors of Chhattisgarh into a bank of malarial parasite. The killer variety – Plasmodium Falciparum is rampant. Filariais, another mosquito borne disease known better as elephantiasis thanks to one of its symptoms is present in places like Ratanpur, Arang, Sarangarh for so long a period and so large in number that it has ceased to shock people and make news. Filariasis does not kill people instantly and thus escapes headlines.

Chhattisgarh is not unaffected by the countrywide racket that has now come to be known as the Munna Bhai admission racket. The government has yet to weed out bogus students who have got into the medical education system in the state. They may take over the reins soon.

Updated Date:

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