The Ludhiana district has 31 government dispensaries. But posts of doctors are vacant in 15 of these, some for months while others for years now. So what options do patients have in this scenario? Some have no option but to go to the crowded civil hospital and some are forced to visit private hospitals and dispensaries where treatment is expensive.
There is no doctor in the dispensary at Kot Mangal Singh for a year now. The Madhopuri dispensary does not have a doctor for more than five years. The condition of dispensaries in Shimlapuri, Sarabha Nagar, Chhawani Mohalla, Dashmesh Nagar, Haibowal Kalan and Haibowal Khurd, among others, is more or less the same.
Auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) in these dispensaries not only perform their own role of assisting patients during emergencies and treating them for minor injuries, they also carry out duties of doctors and pharmacists.
Baldev Kaur, an ANM, said there was no doctor at the Madhopuri dispensary for the past five years. “Besides, there are no pharmacists here. We are five ANMs; three are employed on a contractual basis.”
Another ANM, Kulwant Kaur, from the Abdullapur Basti dispensary said around 20 to 25 patients visited the dispensary daily. “We do not have any doctor or pharmacist in the dispensary. So we send patients to the civil hospital,” she said.
However, there are two visiting doctors at the Basti Jodhewal government dispensary. Shushma, a lady health visitor (LHV) at the dispensary, said, “The doctors come here thrice every week. With nine ANMs in the dispensary, more than a hundred patients are treated daily.”
The ANMs said they organised camps in different areas to assist patients but people visiting these dispensaries faced problems when they were asked to visit the civil hospital due to a lack of doctors.
“There is no doctor here. I had to go to the civil hospital yesterday where I ended up wasting my time. Last month, my neighbour took his child to a private hospital and borrowed money from us for the treatment,” said Usha Kumari, who was visiting the Haibowal Kalan dispensary.
“The ANMs know next to nothing about medicines. How can we trust them? There should be a doctor here,” said Jalal, a patient at the Guru Nanakpura dispensary.
Another visitor, Preet, said, “Government dispensaries are being run by ANMs. We are forced to go to private doctors because they are qualified and knowledgeable.”
He added that private doctors charged a lot. “But what can we do? We have no choice,” he said.
Civil surgeon Dr Rajiv Bhalla said, “Whenever there are vacant posts, we write to the government; the sanction is awaited.”