This article is an effort to show the reality of the so-called ‘susashan’ in Bihar and its bitter impact on the healthcare system, which demands immediate intervention to make sure public expenditure is being properly allocated.
This visit was undertaken by me as an anonymous visitor. The information mentioned below was the result of seven visits to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) in 2017.
Patients were seen lying on both sides of the corridor pathway. Few were on the ground and a few on the hospital bed. The saline bottles were seen hanging with the support of electrical wire in the ward. A Patient with oxygen mask was seen lying down without a bed. Two families were even seen quarrelling over the hospital bed.
A middle-aged woman from Buxar was found waiting for 14 days for the operation of her left leg which was put on hold by doctors. The reason was that the bed on which operation was supposed to take place happen was broken.
Ranjan Kumar, a resident of West Champaran, was in PMCH for his mother’s treatment. He was disappointed by the lack of basic amenities like toilet, water, food, etc. The attitude of the hospital staff and the doctors were also among his reasons for dissatisfaction.
The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) had an unimaginable view. It had no restriction or time-based entry system. It had six patients. Patients had their acquaintances along with them without any preventive measures against infection. They just had a mosquito net as their body cover.
The pediatric ward is under constant visit from doctors and nurses but lacks sufficient space. The bed arrangement for children is a bit chaotic which can easily lead to transmission of infections. This ward did not have any waiting area for visitors.
The water and food supply are lacking. There are only two water filters with just one in working condition. To fetch water is to be part of a long queue which often leads to chaos and quarrels.
The food provided to patients by the hospital management is without protection. The food container does not have any cover and is passed around in different wards on a hospital bed.
There is no canteen for visitors or acquaintances of patients. Acquaintances of patients prepare food by themselves sitting beside an open drain in a sewage area.
There is an open space near the main entrance of the hospital with water taps. This space is used by both men and women for taking a bath. The worst part is the people who use this space for taking a bath need to pay ₹10 to a private vendor.
I interacted with several people who were either visitors or acquaintances of patients, vendors and security guards. The first and most common concern was the scarcity of hospital beds. Incidents of quarrel among needy people are commonplace.
I had an audio-visual interaction with three acquaintances of patients from East and West Champaran. Their main complaint was the unavailability of medicine within the premises of PMCH. They were compelled to purchase medicines from private medicine shops, thus increasing their economic burden.
The owner of a small shop just beside the exit door of PMCH expressed his concern about the hospital. His experience of eight years revealed a depressing truth. In reply to a question as to whether he will opt for treatment at PMCH or not, he refused, saying, “This place has put many lives in risk, all those who are poor and are from unstable economic background come to PMCH in compulsion.”
The same was repeated by the security guard of an SBI ATM near the hospital. In simple words, he said, “Only economically weak people come to PMCH keeping their lives at risk. I never saw a VVIP or any rich person coming to Bihar’s largest government hospital.”
There is no waiting area inside the hospital premises. The same is the case with the Pediatrics building. Visitors sit in the open air under a tree irrespective of any weather condition.
A state with rapid GDP growth is poor when it comes to basic healthcare. The majority of the population cannot afford private healthcare and thereby risk their lives by getting treated at places like PMCH, Patna.
In FY 2016-17, Bihar attained the highest GDP% among all states but the condition of healthcare in the state is dire.
Even according to RBI reports, the allocated funds to the Bihar government have not been utilised by elected representatives of the state.
Chart 6 clearly shows the undermined status of the state’s healthcare. The correlation of GSDP and healthcare is negative. Even if the budget allocation for healthcare has risen in a couple of years, the bad condition of a government hospital remains unchanged.
In a decade, the reality could have been better under Nitish Kumar. His desperation to be in power as Chief Minister has led to the ‘susashan’ model failing to fulfil the basic requirements of people.
The Bihar Health Minister, Mr Mangal Pandey, can afford to pass his time in Karnataka to help out his party. This so-called ‘development’ ridicules basic needs of the people of Bihar. Is this not a questionable kind of ‘development’?
Our grievance is justifiable as without good health and effective healthcare, how could we imagine prosperity?
Saurav Kumar is an activist for education and health, Bihar. He can be reached at email@example.com.