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Varanasi’s Sir Sundar Lal Hospital battles shortage of nurses

Following the recent tragic death of dozens of infants at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, allegedly due to short supply of oxygen, HT does a reality check of what ails medical colleges and their associated hospitals in Uttar Pradesh. Today, we bring to you the poor condition of Varanasi’s Sir Sundar Lal Hospital. Part of the Institute of Medical Sciences-BHU, the 1,565-bed hospital requires 2,365 nurses but has only 425 of them.

lucknow Updated: Aug 28, 2017 17:17 IST
Sudhir Kumar
Sudhir Kumar
Hindustan Times, Varanasi
Sir Sundar Lal Hospital,Uttar Pradesh,BRD Medical College
Locals refer to the Sir Sundar Lal Hospital as the AIIMS of the region though it does not have the tag officially. (HT Photo)

The Sir Sundar Lal (SSL) Hospital here, the premier medical institution of eastern Uttar Pradesh, is battling an acute shortage of nurses and other support staff.

This is the situation just two weeks after over 30 children died at the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, about 200 kilometres from Varanasi, within 48 hours due to alleged disruption in oxygen supply and other causes.

Locals refer to the Sir Sundar Lal Hospital as the AIIMS of the region though it does not have the tag officially. Rather, AIIMS is coming up at Gorakhpur.

OVERBURDENED
  • A senior professor at the hospital claims that the shortage of staff is taking a toll on the health of the paramedical staff, especially nurses, as they are overburdened and have to work for additional hours.
  • The hospital also faces a shortage of other support (OS) staff including ward boy, ward assistant, technicians, and OPD assistants. Against the requirement of 2,500 other support staff, the hospital has just 1,000.
  • The hospital authorities have taken the outsourcing route to bridge the gap between demand and supply but it cannot be a permanent solution.

The SSL hospital is part of the Institute of Medical Sciences-Banaras Hindu University, a central government institution, in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi.

The hospital was founded in 1924 with 96 beds. It has 1565 beds now. The hospital requires 2365 nurses but has only 425 of them. They look after patients who come from eastern UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. About 3,000 to 5,000 patients visit the outpatient department (OPD) daily.

A few months ago, experts at the University Grants Commission (UGC) sanctioned recruitment of 500 nurses after the hospital’s medical superintendent Dr OP Upadhyaya wrote to the union ministry of health, highlighting the acute lack of nurses, considered the backbone of patient care. A copy of the letter was also sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Taking note of the letter, the PMO called a meeting in February. The PM’s principal secretary Nripendra Mishra chaired the meeting in which medical experts of the UGC, top officials from the union health ministry, Sir Sundar Lal Hospital medical superintendent Dr OP Upadhyaya and IMS director Dr VK Shukla participated.

Hospital sources told HT after the discussion, the UGC experts gave their go-ahead to the appointment of 500 nurses. They also assured approval to recruit more nurses in the near future.

“The process to recruit 500 nurses is in progress. Hopefully, we will complete it by October. But over 1400 more nurses are needed to meet the requirement of the 1565-bed hospital receiving patients from five states,” Dr Upadhyay told HT.

He admitted that looking after patients with the existing number of nurses was “a bit difficult”.

“But we are doing it successfully,” he said.

The hospital also faces a shortage of other support (OS) staff including ward boy, ward assistant, technicians, and OPD assistants. Against the requirement of 2,500 other support staff, the hospital has just 1,000.

The hospital authorities have taken the outsourcing route to bridge the gap between demand and supply but it cannot be a permanent solution.

“The SSL Hospital faces a shortage of other support staff. We need 1,500 more other support staff to meet our hospital’s requirement. We are working to improve things,” Dr Upadhyay said, adding the shortage will be overcome through outsourcing.

Around 350 skilled youths have been hired through outsourcing around two months back. Half of them have formal training as OT technicians, lab technicians and lab assistants. The rest will be engaged as stretcher bearers, ward boys and ward assistants.

Confirming the figure, the medical superintendent said: “This is an effort to improve patient care.”

A senior professor at the hospital, who does not wish to be named, claims that the shortage of staff is taking a toll on the health of the paramedical staff, especially nurses, as they are overburdened and have to work for additional hours.

This is a major challenge in providing suitable care to the patients, the professor says.

The hospital has a sanctioned strength of 750 doctors. At present, 500 resident and senior resident doctors and 250 senior doctors are serving the hospital.

Funding for the hospital has gone up. The central government made a budgetary allocation of Rs 30 crore for the hospital for the financial year 2017-18. In 2016-17, the Centre had allocated Rs 12.05 crore to the hospital.

The hospital has 23 major operating theatres, an emergency OT and two minor OTs.Twenty-two OTs were upgraded to modular ones in the last eight years. Five are being upgraded currently and will turn into modular OTs in the near future, Dr Upadhyay said.

The hospital takes around two months to clear bills for oxygen and nitrous oxide after taking their delivery. The hospital, which always has a month’s stock of the two gases, spends around Rs 12 lakh to Rs 14 lakh every month on the two gases.

It pays Rs 10 lakh for oxygen and around Rs 2 lakh for nitrous oxide every month. The annual bill comes to around Rs 1.4 crore.

Dr Upadhyay said, “As soon as the supplier submits the bill for the gases, the process to clear it begins. We ensure that the bills are cleared as soon as possible. We always keep a surplus stock of oxygen for about a month so that we can meet the requirement in case of an urgency.”

There were no reports of medicine shortage or defunct medical equipment in any department of the hospital.

However, Guddu Yadav, an attendant of a patient at paediatric surgery department, complained: “The doctors gave us an appointment for an operation on Monday, but they postponed it. Now they say surgery will take place on Friday.” He did not specify the reason for the postponement but hinted at an attitude problem.

The last expansion of the hospital was done in 2016 in accordance with the Medical Council of India requirement. The number of beds increased to 1565 from 1205 here due to growing pressure of patients. In all, 360 beds were added.

“The hospital authorities write to the union HRD ministry and the union health ministry, in case of any requirement,” Dr Upadhyay said, adding that free lunch and dinner to the poor patients resumed as the centre provided funds for the same following a communication.

Dr Upadhyay says the centre should provide AIIMS status to the IMS-BHU and provide funds on par with the premier medical institute so that the patients can get the best possible care here. He thanks the centre for increasing per bed treatment fund from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh per year. This will help in improving the services, he says.

Meanwhile, construction of the Mahamana Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya Cancer Centre, a 250-bed-hospital, is likely to start at Sundar Baghiya on the BHU premises from September. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation of the centre during his visit to Varanasi on December 22 last year before assembly elections. The estimated cost of the hospital is Rs 500 crore. It will be of global standards.

In addition, a centenary super specialty complex worth Rs 200 crore will come up on the premises of the Sir Sundar Lal Hospital, BHU, in a couple of years.

First Published: Aug 28, 2017 17:17 IST