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Patient wait, endless woes
- Hopes lost for better treatment with no word on vacancy fill-up

She has been writhing in pain for the past eight days.

Lying on the verandah of the gynaecology department of Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital, Sheela Devi, 35, has her eyes glued on the closed door of the labour room. It is only a few metres away.

But for the pregnant woman from Kumhrar village in Sheohar district, her turn to enter the room seems ages away.

Sheela is not alone, though. Many like her are waiting for Caesarean delivery. Others squat or lay sprawled on the verandahs, struggling to get pills and care.

Not very far from her is Mamta Devi, a 28-year-old resident Chandwara village in the Mushahri block of Muzaffarpur. At midnight of September 4, she gave birth to a male child on the verandah. Mamta was not allotted a bed in the gynaecology ward, which is packed with patients. As the labour pain increased, she lay down in a corner.

Three days later, she is yet to get any healthcare. “Doctors and nurses are busy looking after patients on the beds. No one pays any attention to us on the verandah,” she said.

All 500 beds at the facility are full, said hospital superintendent G.K. Thakur.

He added: “It is inhuman to throw out patients just because we cannot accommodate them on beds. Many of them have come from far-flung villages of north Bihar. We cannot just turn them away.”

Around 10 Caesarean and 40 normal deliveries take place in the hospital every day. “But there are more than 250 patients in the gynaecological department,” said Thakur.

Besides, 30 to 40 patients come to the emergency ward every day. The doctors are accustomed to working under hectic pressure. But the recent resignation of two senior resident doctors of the gynaecology department — Ashmita Singh and Nishi Bala — has thrown a spanner in the works.

The head of department of gynaecology, Kumari Vibha, is sweating it out to provide health services to those who flock to the hospital. It is an impossible struggle — things just spin out of control.

“Attendants and patients often turn hostile if the attending doctors are unable to help the patients,” Bala told The Telegraph. “But there is little the doctors and other staff can do. The number of patients have increased manifold. The crunch is serious. We have reached a nadir.”

Nelu, a nurse at the department, said: “There is no space for the patients who are coming everyday.”

Superintendent Thakur said: “We have been burning the midnight oil to deliver services despite immense adversities. The hospital is overcrowded. Patients of all age groups are suffering. The gynaecology department is the worst hit. “I have written to the health department time and again asking them to fill up the vacant posts of doctors. But nothing has happened so far.”

The health department has not replied to the letter either.

Asked about the issue, R.P. Ojha, additional health secretary, said the government had not yet received any official communication regarding the resignation of doctors at the hospital.

Patients queue up at the outpatient department of Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur. Picture by Gopi Raman

“I cannot comment on the particular issue without finding out the details. However, it is true that there is an acute shortage of doctors in the medical colleges. We are trying to take necessary action regarding this. We recently received recommendation from Bihar Public Service Commission for appointing several medical teachers in the rank of assistant professor. The process of recruitment is underway,” he said.

The adverse service condition, however, is too much for some doctors, who have quit. The first to put in his papers was Arun Kumar Singh, a senior resident doctor in the orthopaedic department. In his resignation letter, he told the authorities that it was impossible for him to continue working under such conditions.

Patients at the orthopaedic department are also suffering from lack of healthcare professionals to attend to them.

Mohammad Ayub Alam, 55, a resident of Alliya village in Saharsa district came to Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital on September 3 after travelling 200km. His right leg had suffered multiple fractures last year. It has now developed complications.

“I have been running from here to there to get proper medical aid. But I am yet to receive any health care,” he said.

If the situation did not improve, claimed Thakur, the emergency services at both the gynaecology and the orthopaedic departments would have to be closed down.

“I have been requesting the authorities to fill up the vacancies for the past three-four years. Nothing was done. Now, the situation has reached a head.”

It could soon get worse. The doctors still serving at the hospital have threatened to go on a mass leave to exert pressure on the government to address the desperate situation.

Thakur said: “They met me on Wednesday evening and told me about their plan to go on mass leave as a protest. I have convinced the doctors to not get disheartened and continue with their work for the time being. But I don’t know what will happen if the situation does not improve soon.”