Doctors forego pay to serve the flood-hit | india | Hindustan Times
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Doctors forego pay to serve the flood-hit

india Updated: Sep 23, 2008 00:41 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

They say where there is a will, there is a way, and doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) know how to use this adage to get their way.

On being refused permission to work as volunteers in the flood-hit districts of Bihar, 18 doctors from AIIMS took leave from hospital and did what their hearts wanted them to do, on their own time.

When the Union health ministry turned down their request for leave, they went on leave without pay and traveled to Bihar with their own money. “Soon, our savings will run out and we won’t have money left to stay on. We know our duty is to
help those in need but a little support from the government would have made it possible for us to stay here longer,” says
Dr Harsh, who returned on September 21 after spending almost eight days there.

“More doctors want to go and help but unless the ministry sanctions official leave, many would opt out as everyone needs an income to support their families,” says Dr Harsh.

The young doctors — all junior and senior residents, between ages 25 and 30 years — have been working in tough conditions in the flood-affected districts in north Bihar since September 6. Even the sudden death of a Mumbai medico hasn’t deterred them from staying on.

With no help from the state or central government, these doctors have set up health clinics in districts with non-existing health infrastructure.

In some areas, the local government has still not reached the marooned thousands at risk of death and disease.

These doctors have set up a health camp at Bhutiya canal with support of Delhi University students. Over 50, 000 people
live along the 8-km long canal, which is 300km from Saharsa, which boasts of the district’s only civil hospital. “It is a scary situation out here. There are few state doctors, almost all of whom are posted at district hospitals from where there is no attempt to reach the isolated clusters.

While medicines for the more common diseases like diarrhoea, cold and fever are available, nothing is being done for more serious and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria or jaundice,” said Dr Saket Mani, junior resident, from AIIMS.

The doctors have rented a dilapidated house in Saharsa and travel 300-400km each day to treat people in remote hamlets.

“The situation here is extremely appalling and there is a dire need of doctors,” said Dr Mani.

“We see more than 500 patients everyday but that is just not enough. The state to intervene before its too late,” he added.

When this reporter visited Bhutiya canal, there was just one source of underground water for 50,000 people and no toilets.

“Now an NGO has installed half a dozen water pumps,” says Dr Harsh.

“We can’t stay here for ever. Only God knows what will happen of these people if the state does not react in time,” said a worried Dr Mani.