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Medical unit balm for Gandaman
- Health infrastructure near village where midday meal killed 23 kids last year shameful

The health department has sanctioned around Rs 21 lakh to construct a health sub-centre at Gandaman village in Masrakh block of Saran where 23 children died after eating pesticide-laced midday meal.

The health department last week issued a notification regarding this. For the residents of Gandaman, this is a big achievement as there is not a single government healthcare institution in a radius of seven to eight kilometres of their village. At present, a primary health centre is located at Masrakh, around 8km away from their village, along with a sub-divisional hospital in Marhaura, around 30km away and a sadar (district) hospital at Chhapra around 45km away.

After the Gandaman school tragedy, the state government had taken measures to relieve the villagers of the memories of its past. One such initiative was declaring Gandaman to be developed as an “Aadarsh Gaon” (model village).

Sources in the health department said Bihar Medical Infrastructure Development Corporation (BMSICL) has been entrusted with the job of looking after the construction work of the health sub-centre. R.P. Ojha, the additional secretary of the health department, said the unit would be based on Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) guidelines.

“The proposed health sub-centre in Gandaman would have basic health workers and auxiliary nurse midwives according to IPHS norms. The health sub-centre won’t have any additional facilities though. It would have only those facilities available in other health sub-centres in the state,” said Ojha.

Dr Shambhunath Singh, the deputy superintendent of the Chhapra-based district hospital, hailed the initiative of the health department. “Gandaman is a thickly populated area and at present there is not even a single government healthcare institution. So this initiative was the need of the hour, especially after the school tragedy,” said Singh.

Some health experts, however, criticised the state government’s initiative. According to them, the state government should first upgrade the existing healthcare institutions in the region (referring to Chhapra) rather than developing any new healthcare institution.

Dr Ajay Kumar, general secretary, Bihar Health Services Association, said: “Starting a new hospital can’t be a solution. Instead, the government should develop the facilities of the existing healthcare institutions in the region. According to my knowledge, the primary health centre and even the district hospital in Chhapra are not very well equipped. Their infrastructure is not very good. The district hospitals should be made at a par with the medical college hospitals but the district hospital is far behind in terms of infrastructure and manpower. Every district hospital should have specialists of various disciplines but Chhapra-based district hospital does not even have a cardiologist. ”

A senior doctor of the Chhapra-based district hospital told The Telegraph: “Our hospital does not have necessary machines for emergency patients. We don’t have ventilator in our hospital. This is the reason we have to avoid cases of lung, heart and kidney failure. We can’t attend to lung, heart and kidney failure patients because for them ventilator is a must. In poisoning cases also, ventilator is required. It is really unfortunate that even after the Gandaman school tragedy, ventilator has been not made available to the hospital, ” said the source.

Dr Shambhunath Singh, the deputy superintendent of Chhapra-based district hospital, admitted the non-availability of ventilator in the hospital. “Yes, ventilator is not present in our hospital. However, we have initiated the process of getting one. We have recently bought other important machines, including a cardiac monitor.”

Sources said the incident in which students of Gandaman Primary School were given organophosphorous-laced food at their school under the midday meal scheme had not only brought out irregularities on the part of the education department but the incident at the primary health centre in Masrakh also showed the loopholes in the healthcare services in the state.