Neem is the tree of health.
And in an eastern Rajasthan town, hard-pressed medical staff have turned to two neem trees on the campus to nurse back to health a flood of fever-stricken patients.
At the Saipau community health centre in Dholpur district, bottles of intravenous (IV) fluid hang from nails hammered into the tree trunks. Patients and their family members sit on the cemented platform around the trees and keep a watch on the fluid flow.
“We have admitted patients beyond our capacity. We can’t turn them away,” centre incharge Dr Charanjeet Singh Chauhan said.
The health centre, which has just 15 beds, is overwhelmed as there has been a spike in the cases of viral fever brought in by monsoon rains.
The two trees have virtually turned into hospital wards. On Saturday, 15-20 patients were lying under each of them. The indoor patient count for the day was 200. There were people everywhere -- on the floor, in the corridor and when the staff ran out of place, they thought of the trees.
At sunset, patients scrambled to find a corner in the centre building to spend the night.
Space in not the only concern. Dr Chauhan said the centre had just three doctors and they had run out of medicines as well. Some patients left after initial treatment because of lack of facilities.
Sanitation is another casualty. Patients and their attendants are forced to defecate in the open as the health centre is not equipped to handle the huge number of people.
They were trying their best but it was the government’s responsibility to ensure there were enough doctors, beds and medicines, block chief medical and health officer Dr Virendra Bhaskar said.
Community health centres are a crucial link in rural health care and are meant to provide services to areas that do not have big hospitals. The idea is to provide modern facilities to rural population and ease overcrowding in district hospitals but equipment and staff continue to pose a challenge.