The strike by employees of the TB Hospital at Sewri on Thursday once again put the spotlight on the poor condition of the institution that treats patients from across the country.
After a patient committed suicide at the hospital in March 2009, Hindustan Times had reported that the hospital did not have a counsellor to help patients cope with the disease. It does not have enough doctors and staff.
The situation has not improved much since then. The 1,000-bed hospital, which has 720 patients admitted currently, has not had a medical superintendent and deputy medical superintendent for more than two years.
Vijay Nagrinkar, acting medical superintendent of the hospital, said around four of the 48 other medical posts are also lying vacant.
Fifty-four of the 225 posts for nurses are vacant and 127 of 658 posts for Class IV employees have also been vacant for more than three years, according to the employees’ union.
“Ideally, there should be one nurse and ward boy for every six patients. The excess workload on the existing staff also affects their health and makes them more prone to tuberculosis,” said Pradeep Narkar, who heads the BMC employees’ union.
He added that fear of contracting TB keeps doctors and paramedical staff away from the hospital. Though no doctors are on TB treatment currently, around seven have been diagnosed with TB in the past three years.
After the strike, BMC officials assured the employees that they would fill vacant posts soon. “The MPSC had advertised the superintendent posts but we did not get suitable candidates,” said Dr GT Ambe, BMC’s executive health officer.
“We will change the criteria. For 3,000 other vacancies across BMC hospitals, including the TB Hospital, we have got 40,00,00 applications. We are processing them. All posts will be filled by September,” he said.
Incidentally, the trigger for the strike was the shortage of cleaning materials. Employees alleged that the hospital had not received liquid soap and disinfectants from BMC.
“There was some miscommunication. The stock was there but employees thought it could not be used till some tests were done performed. The matter has been sorted,” said Dr GT Ambe, BMC’s executive health officer.
The Class IV workers have also requested the BMC to give jobs to their children if they die of TB and asked for time-bound promotions.