When the very system which should cure you becomes a vehicle for death or lifelong morbidities, it needs drastic overhauling or it must be shut down. In the case of India’s public healthcare, neither of the two options seem possible as of now.
So, given its shambolic condition, the horror which followed two successive mass health camps — one for sterilisation in Chhattisgarh’s Bilaspur district and the other for eye surgeries in Punjab’s Gurdaspur — was not entirely surprising. The first killed 13 people and the other blinded 23. The doctors in both the cases have now been suspended by their respective state governments.
The botched-up operations have raised the question of whether such camps should be held at all. The answer is definitely not, if this is way the governments are going to conduct them. In Odisha recently, health officials launched an investigation after reports came out that bicycle pumps were used on 56 women undergoing sterilisation surgeries at a government-run community health centre in Banarpal, Angul district, when the doctors should have used carbon dioxide insufflators in the procedure.
Later, a health official in the district told reporters that the use of bicycle pumps in sterilisation surgery was widespread across India. If the right equipment is one problem, the other is the condition of these mobile clinics. More often than not, these are unsanitary and dangerous; there is no running water or enough staff.
While government rules say that doctors should conduct no more than 30 sterilisation surgeries a day, often doctors overshoot that target to earn extra incentives.
In Punjab, 23 people lost their vision because the cataract surgery — not a complicated procedure by any stretch of the imagination — was performed under “severe unhygienic conditions”.
These mobile camps are held because government health services are not available in many areas of the country. But this is no way to conduct such camps. These two incidents should push the government to ban these health camps and instead expand the service network of hospitals so that these operations can be held using proper equipment and under hygienic conditions.