Sixty per cent of hospitals in rural Maharashtra don’t have an obstetrician or gynaecologist, 85 per cent are not equipped to conduct caesarean sections and about 90 per cent don’t have blood storage facilities.
These are just some of the several shocking findings of the third District Level Household Survey (DLHS), a health survey commissioned by the Union Health Ministry and conducted by the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. The government had included a population-linked survey of rural healthcare facilities in DLHS for the first time.
In Maharashtra, researchers had covered a representative sample of 2,213 hospitals and health centres in 1,211 villages in 2008. A detailed report with findings for each district will be presented to the state government and district health officers soon.
“Maharashtra has a good number of rural healthcare facilities compared to many other states but many are not up to the mark,” said Dr Balram Paswan of IIPS.
The researchers found that more than 15 per cent of the 293 rural hospitals surveyed did not have a functional operation theatre. Rural hospitals in 10 districts, including Akola, Aurangabad and Amravati, did not even have general surgeons.
“Many rural hospitals are designated referral centres so they ought to be better equipped and have specialists,” said Dr Paswan.
Health activist Dr Abhay Shukla said that a majority of rural hospitals were not even equipped to conduct ‘Unbanked Direct Blood Transfusions’ – in which blood drawn from a relative is transfused into the patient’s body. “Setting up blood banks is not easy but the government should at least make direct transfusions possible so more surgeries can be conducted,” he said.
The survey also revealed that a significant number of villages – around 40 per cent – in the state did not have sub-centres within the prescribed three-km radius and 35 per cent did not have a primary health centre (PHC) within 10 km.
Moreover, only 45 per cent of the 830 PHCs had newborn care services and around the same number had referral services for pregnancies/delivery.
A recent survey conducted by non-governmental organisations in 225 villages had revealed that most PHCs had irregular supply of essential medicines.
Activists said the DLHS findings reiterated the need for the state government to focus on rural health. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India had recently criticised the state government for under-utilisation of funds under the National Rural Health Mission.