Bihar’s decrepit medical infrastructure – Part 4
By Deepak Parvatiyar*
In about a fortnight in Bihar, at least nine doctors died and about 50 hospitalised, and messages circulated in many social media groups of doctors suggest that all these doctors, whether dead or those undergoing treatment, had contracted COVID-19.
This is unarguably a huge number of casualties of medical practitioners within such a short span of time. There has been a general outcry among the medical fraternity in the state that the government should come clean on these statistics and disclose how many of these doctors are Corona victims indeed.
The names of doctors who died around this past fortnight are as follows:
Civil Surgeon of Samastipur Dr. R.R.Jha; Dr Kalyan Kumar, a physician from Shahpur in Bhojpur, who was around sixty year old; Professor (Dr) N K Singh, a renowned professor of ENT in Patna Medical College Hospital; well known Oncologist and Radiotherapist, Professor (Dr) Mithlesh Kumar of Patna Medical College Hospital; Dr Ashwini Kumar (40+), a physician from Gaya; Dr K. Rajan, 50, Surgeon, Jahanabad; Dr (Major) A N Singh, 55+, Physician, Muzaffarpur; Dr DN Chaudhari of Munger; and Dr Nageshwar Prasad of Madhubani.
The situation has come to a point that, if sources within the medical fraternity are to be believed, the interventionists and anaesthetists of ICUs of private Covid hospitals too are tendering their resignations now. It may be pointed out that the state government had declared a long list of hospitals, where serious Covid patients could now be admitted apart from Government’s AIIMS Patna, Nalanda Medical College Hospital, and so on.
Private hospitals which were declared as Covid centres could help the serious patients provided anesthetists and interventionists are ready to intubate in the serious Covid patients and help such patients by putting ventilators and properly monitoring these ventilators. However, as a doctor said on conditions of anonymity: “Does our Hon’ble Health Minister, Principal Health Secretary or respective District Magistrates and Civil Surgeons, actually know the exact number of properly equipped ICUs and anaesthetists, either in government or in private sector, present in each district?” He continued in the same vein: “We are sure they must not be knowing the exact numbers.”
If sources are to be believed then there is no proper provision of treating Covid patients even in district headquarters. “The patients who are coming to Patna are coming only, when they are terminally ill,” said a doctor. What is perturbing is that no doctor wants to stick his or her neck out and come on record for fear of persecution and harassment.
It is a known fact that there are two groups of Covid patients, the first group comprises majority patients, who require medical treatment and oxygen supported beds and the second group comprises of serious patients who require ICU and ventilator care.
The first group is being mismanaged by government because of lack of infrastructure like lack of oxygen supported beds and second group of serious Covid patients who decide the mortality rate, is also being mismanaged by non availability of trained interventionists in adequate numbers to manage serious covid patients in ICUs having ventilators. The mess is further complicated by lack of adequate numbers of properly equipped ICUs, where serious Covid patients could be treated properly in the state.
“There is no homework, no vision and no road map to tackle this pandemic in Bihar by Government of Bihar,” lamented a doctor.
“The government can use the existing manpower of senior anesthetists, senior residents of anesthesiology, and 3rd year anesthesia junior residents of different medical colleges. They along with available doctors of district head quarters could be sent for a short term training at AIIMS – Patna or other higher centres. The help of medical units of Central Agencies like CGHS , ARMY, Railway etc . could be taken,” Dr. Shivendra Sahay, a well know eye surgeon of Patna, suggested. According to him the government through good offices of Indian Medical Association(IMA) and through District Magistrate and Civil Surgeon of every district must hold meetings with anaesthetists and Covid health workers who are working in that District. “The government should listen to their problems and take them in confidence,” he added.
No doubt even the anesthetists, doctors, nurses and other health workers serving Covid patients in ICU need future security and encouragement, which has been missing all these days, as a few claimed. Obviously from government side, such doctors must be assured that entire government machinery will support them through best protective gears and gadgetaries.
Indeed it is high time that the state government of Bihar secure future of such doctors and health workers, who are endangering their lives treating covid patients. Such doctors and health workers must be assured that they and their family, in case of any mishap, will be taken proper care of, the way soldiers get all privilege of financial backup and job security of dependants in case of any mishap.
A doctor went on to the extent of suggesting that the government can declare some financial backup and honours like any other martyr fighting the enemy country at the borders get.
There is an underlying expectation in the health sector that the government must promptly move in right direction. But the time is fast running out in Pandemic-hit Bihar where latest official figures show 282 deaths due to Covid-19 so far.
*The writer is a senior journalist