A state-of-the-art machine used for key pathological tests in Jharkhand's biggest government-run healthcare facility has malfunctioned allegedly due to poor maintenance, forcing hundreds of patients to avail the services of private laboratories at higher prices.
Officials said on Tuesday that the analyser machine at the biochemistry department of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) broke down on Monday.
The RIMS, the only state-run super-specialty hospital in Jharkhand with a daily patient footfall of around 1,500, offers critical treatment facilities in its 30 different departments.
Though pathological services are available at all major state hospitals, RIMS has the largest range under one roof -- facilities for 31 tests compared to 20 in other hospitals.
The RIMS pathology lab conducts tests on more than 1,000 patients admitted to the hospital and almost 600 out-patients daily, according to officials.
RIMS officials said that more than 100 samples due for simple blood tests and complicated tests of billirubin, alkine phosphate, blood urea and creatinine tests had been sent back from the bio-chemistry department after the machine stopped working.
More than 200 patients have also been sent back since Monday, forcing them to get their tests done at costlier private clinics in the periphery of the RIMS campus in Ranchi.
A lab technician said on the condition of anonymity said that the analyser, a machine that can tests samples for multiple parameters, had gone bust due to poor maintenance and hospital authorities had failed to get in touch with specialised teams trained to repair it. The machine was installed in 2010.
Doctors said that the worst affected will be the patients from lower income groups who throng the hospital form across the state for treatment.
The RIMS lab offers tests at subsidised rates of Rs 10 to Rs 90 while at private clinics the same tests costs between Rs 100 to Rs 900.
Deepak Sharma, a daily wager, said, "My wife is admitted at the medicine ward with jaundice and her treatment is pending as her blood test reports are still not in. I cannot afford the private clinics." Manoj Yadav, a daily wager from Latehar, said he had to pay Rs 300 for blood urea test for his son. RIMS charges Rs 10 for the same test.
This is the third time the RIMS laboratory is facing such a crisis. In March and June this year, it had run out of test chemicals.
"On any given day we take and test almost 150 samples. The pressure is huge. We already have a repair team working on it...the work will be completed by Wednesday," said RIMS medical superintendent Dr SK Choudhary.