About a year ago, Naseema Shaikh went to the casualty ward of sub-district hospital at Karad with her friend who was in labour.
“Doctors told us that the hospital did not have a gynaecologist, and asked us to go to Satara’s civil hospital, 50km away. Instead of helping us, they asked us to go by ourselves in the night,” said a disillusioned Shaikh.
The 100-bed hospital at Karad, which is 310km from Mumbai, is the only government facility with about half the doctors’ posts lying vacant.
Shaikh’s is not a one-off case. Even today, the hospital does not have a gynaecologist.
The gynaecologist has been absconding for six months.
The orthopaedic surgeon has been suspended over an inquiry into a medico-legal case. The hospital has only one anaesthesiologist.
The post of a medical physician, responsible for treating tuberculosis, HIV, dengue, malaria patients, has been vacant for the last five years.
In the absence of an orthopaedic surgeon, the hospital is unable to treat even cases of fracture.
Dr Raju Shedge, the acting medical superintendent at the Karad hospital, also serves aat Undale’s rural hospital, 25 km away.
“I am a gynaecologist but owing to administrative duties at two hospitals, it’s difficult to perform surgeries,” he said.
In the last three years, the state health department has sanctioned Rs68 crore to 18 hospitals and 71 primary health centres in Satara under the Centre’s National Rural Health Mission that aims to provide ‘effective health care to rural populace’.
Seven of the 15 posts of specialised doctors at the hospital which includes a paediatrician are lying vacant. The hospita has an ultrasound machine but does not have a sonologist to operate it.
There are only two ultrasound machines in the district — one at Karad and the other at Satara civil hospital, where seven of the 18 posts of specialist doctors lie vacant.
Maharashtra’s budget for the NRHM scheme is about Rs1,500 to Rs1,600 crore annually. The state has been trying to get doctors on contract and pay them from NRHM’s funds.
“Instead of treating patients, most doctors on contract try to attract them to their private hospitals,” said a doctor from the department.