Bhawanipatna: Days after Dana Majhi had to walk 10 km carrying his wife’s corpse on his shoulders, NDTV visited the Kalahandi District Headquarter Hospital in Bhawanipatna in Odisha where she breathed her last.
A young man with severe meningitis was seen lying on the hospital’s floor, with his family by his side, struggling to hold him still as he was convulsing with fits.
Even being a serious case, he could not get a hospital bed as there just aren’t enough of them.
On investigating, NDTV found that the hospital, which has only 165 sanctioned beds, is functioning with 400 patients at a given point in time.
These patients are attended to by only 31 doctors, who work in shifts. Of the 71 doctors’ positions at the hospital, at least 40 remained vacant.
An expensive endoscopy machine was seen gathering dust behind locked doors as the surgery specialist who used to work on this equipment left for further studies five years ago. The doctor has not been replaced by the hospital yet, NDTV was told.
Raj Kumar Jha, the person in charge of the Sulabh International program at the hospital said, “The problem is not a shortage of machines. We have the most sophisticated machines but not enough doctors to handle them.”
According to the administration, the new doctors quit in no time.
Struggling to tend to a never-ending stream of patients, the doctors who work at this hospital are also an unhappy lot.
Dr Dinabandhu Sahoo, a specialist doctor who finished his night shift was exhausted. He had admitted 50 patients overnight. His working conditions are a far cry from the dreams and hopes he had for himself as a young medical student, he rues.
“When I was a medical student, I had dreams of working in a good professional hospital with facilities and where I could also grow. Then I joined the government service. It’s a compromise,” he said.
The Chief District Medical Officer of the hospital was found to be on leave and the Assistant District Medical Officer Dr J K Aggarwal was the man-in-charge in his place.
NDTV did not find Dr Aggarwal in his office but in a private clinic nearb
The young boy who answers the calls and requests for an ambulance points out that there is only one ambulance in the hospital and distances in this hilly, backward, tribal region are far. He explains that it takes time for the lone ambulance to get back to the hospital but the patients get impatient.
There is only one ambulance driver in the hospital. His eyes seemed visibly bloodshot with fatigue.
On checking his logbook, NDTV found that he was on an assignment from 9:30 pm to 5.30 am. At 7:45 am, he was supposed to head out again to drive home another dead body over a treacherous broken down road to a small village which was hours away from the hospital.
The problem facing the Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha Government is – what incentive does a young medical graduate have to work at such a hospital? With 85% of the state’s population living in rural areas, the importance of finding a solution cannot be over-emphasized.