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Hospital blackout for a month

Ranchi, May 15: Unimaginable but true, the 29-year-old referral hospital in HRD minister Geetashree Oraon’s constituency, Sisai, has no power for over a month, making its cold storage — critical for stocking up on vaccines, medicines, blood units and so on — a sick joke, pun intended.

Continuing with his tradition of surprise raids, acting chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty went on a seven-hour mission in Khunti and Gumla from 8pm yesterday to 3am today.

Chakraborty inspected a health centre in Torpa (Khunti), followed by a community health centre in Kamdara (Gumla), then the referral hospital in Sisai (Gumla) and finally sadar hospital in Khunti.

Though problems of infrastructure, absenteeism, funds crunch and lack of organised registers are common across the board, the Sisai referral hospital is a test case for the health department.

One of the oldest referral hospitals since undivided Bihar, the fact that it did not have power since over a month was unknown to health department bigwigs in Ranchi.

When officiating chief secretary Chakraborty and his team, along with The Telegraph, turned up for surprise inspection at 11.45pm yesterday, B.D. Oraon, lady doctor and in-charge of Sisai referral hospital, said their fight against blackouts was an old one.

“The situation is such that currently we have stopped stocking vaccines and blood samples as they get decomposed and useless with our defunct cold storage units, thanks to no power,” she said.

Ironically, giving free vaccination is one of the main tasks of any state hospital.

Established in 1985, Sisai referral hospital is also low on manpower. It has six doctors and a specialist against the sanctioned strength of more than double the figures.

Still, such is the paucity of healthcare in the hinterland that 17 patients were found admitted to the hospital.

Hospital in-charge Oraon said they did not know what to do. “Sir, for over last one month, I have been writing to all district and health department officials for proper power connection,” she said. “There is some problem with local grid here but no one is bothered. Running a generator for months is no solution. We hardly have funds. Only we know how we manage.”

Another referral hospital staffer in Sisai, who did not want to be named, said there was another primary health centre (PHC) 5km away functioning without power since the past three months.

“Our case is different. We are told there is some fault in local grid that is responsible for this blackout,” he said. “But the PHC I am talking about hasn’t yet received electricity connection.”

State health director Sumant Mishra, accompanying Chakraborty, did not have any answers to offer.

Data on hospital or community health centre blackouts or status of power connections is not recorded or updated by the powers-that-be in the capital.

Mishra conceded it was a big problem.

“I am now going to write to the energy department and all civil surgeons in this regard soon. We are going to do a survey of all health centres and hospitals with power problems for corrective measures on a priority basis,” said Mishra. “Time has come to walk the talk.”

The two departments — health and energy — have to start talking first.


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