ByÂ Kayonaaz Kalyanwala:
Can a public health system put up its hands and wipe off of responsibility towards patients who have nowhere else to go? The residents of Deogarh, Jharkhand have faced several instances of medical negligence at the Sub-Divisional Hospital in Madhupur. Many cases ended with the death of those who went to seek medical help. Now, with the help of Community Correspondent Mukesh Rajak, they are asking for accountability and better health facilities.
Video Volunteers has launched a campaign to ensure that the district health officials are held accountable for their lapses resulting in the deaths of Mrs Amna Bibi’s new born and 12-year-old Kundan Das and that more people do not lose their lives to such gross medical negligence.
Over the last two months many people from the Madhupur community have come forward to share their own experiences of not being given correct and timely treatment at the hospital.
The first incident came to light on 12th November 2013. As Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondent Mukesh Rajak waited at the hospital to be tended to for a fever, he met Amna who was in the throes of a painful labour. Amna had travelled from Purni Singhdho village on her own when the government ambulance had failed to come to get her. Once at the hospital she had to wait for three hours as the doctors on duty were nowhere on site. Three other women, also in labour, waited with her.
The family was eventually forced to arrange for a private vehicle to take them to a private clinic in Madhupur. The baby Amna delivered was stillborn. India has the highest number of first day deaths in the world according to the “State of the World’s Mothers Report” published by Save the children.
The family were resolute that they wanted justice for Amna and the baby she lost. Video Volunteers helped them launch a petition on Change.org. As Mukesh was working on the case, he was approached by the family of Kundan Das on the evening of 17th December 2013 for help to get their child treatment at the hospital.
Kundan had been taken from his village Jayantigram to the Madhupur hospital earlier that day after being attacked by a fox. The family was told that nothing was needed to be done and were sent away without even a basic dressing of the wounds.
Mukesh was able to contact the doctors he was in touch with at the Sub-Divisional Hospital and asked them to make sure the child got the required injections. While tetanus shots were administered, they were made to return the next day for anti-rabies shots, as those were unavailable that day.
It is mandatory for government hospitals to have a constant supply of tetanus and anti-rabies vaccines. According to the WHO an estimated 20,000 people die annually of rabies in India. Children from rural areas are the most susceptible.
Two weeks later Kundan began to show signs of hydrophobia, a classic symptom of Rabies. He passed away on 5th January 2014 as his family tried to organise funds to take him to the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi, where they had been referred by the Sub-Divisional Hospital.
The incidents are a testimony to the lack of attention being paid to the medical needs of patients referred to this hospital, that caters to six blocks in Deogarh District.
“When poor people like us go to a hospital, our concerns are never taken seriously. It takes recommendations from an educated person or politician to get treatment. Why?” The frustrated words of Santosh Das, Kundan’s brother.
As a result of follow-ups from Video Volunteers, on 17th December the Civil Surgeon (also the investigating officer) of Deogarh visited the Madhupur Sub Divisional Hospital for an inspection. It was reported in the local media that the hospital staff appeared just for the inspection and after it was over, it was back to the usual state of affairs and the patients were found waiting for medical negligence.
On being pressurised, the Civil Surgeon also visited Amna to hear her testimony. While the Civil Surgeon has submitted a report to the District Magistrate none of the findings have been made public nor has any action been taken.
Video Volunteers has partnered with Change.org to start two online petitions, one for Amna and one for Kundan. The petitions are asking the District Magistrate of Deogarh, Mr. Rahul Pawar to take immediate action against the authorities at the Sub Divisional Hospital, Madhupur, so that such cases are not repeated in Deogarh, Jharkhand.
Deogarh’s residents continue to demand that the public health system start taking responsibility for their role in these deaths. We need the administration to pull up its socks and be answerable to the citizens for whom it was set up in the first place.