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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Civic hospitals can be force multipliers for Ayushman Bharat | Opinion

The civic health department has about 1,200 people on the rolls but according to the civic health chief, these hospitals can function only if an additional 700 staff and about 100 doctors are recruited.

opinion Updated: Sep 09, 2019 15:52 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
The Balasaheb Thackeray Hospital near Mitra Mandal in Pune has been lying in a state of neglect.
The Balasaheb Thackeray Hospital near Mitra Mandal in Pune has been lying in a state of neglect.(HT PHOTO.)
         

As many as eight civic hospitals, including two named after members of the Bal Thackeray family, are lying in a state of neglect in Pune for a number of years now.

In 2016, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had inaugurated the Pune Municipal Corporation’s three-storeyed Hindu Hridayasamrat Balasaheb Thackeray hospital named after his father and founder of the party. Today, only the OPD (out patients department) of this hospital is operational on the ground floor.

Same is the case with the six-storeyed Bindumadhav Thackeray hospital in another part of the city, and six other hospitals constructed by the PMC. In the case of the Bindumadhav hospital, the third and fourth floors are being used as classrooms of a school for deaf children.

The civic health department has about 1,200 people on the rolls but according to the civic health chief, these hospitals can function only if an additional 700 staff and about 100 doctors are recruited. Since that has not been done, these hospital buildings, constructed at enormous cost to the public exchequer on prime public property in different localities, are are empty, wasted and uncared for while the poor suffer for want of better healthcare facilities.

Same is the case with the Maharashtra government’s Sassoon general hospital which approved construction of an additional 11-storey hospital building on its premises. Work on this project began in 2009 and was to be completed in three years. However, it has remained incomplete even today, after spending around Rs 74 crore on the building. According to government officials, another Rs 109 crore have been approved for this project and will be released in a phased manner.

Of the eight civic hospitals lying defunct in Pune is the four-storeyed 100-bed Draupadabai Murlidhar Khedekar general hospital and trauma care centre which was run by a private hospital since 2008, under a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement for 10 years. Located on the old Pune-Mumbai highway, this hospital used to receive many road accident cases because of its location.

The moment this agreement ended, the private hospital decided not to renew its agreement with the civic body. In fact, Dr Charudutta Apte, chairman and managing director of Sahyadri Hospitals, which was in partnership with the PMC to run the civic hospital, was quite bitter about the experience.

He called the partnership “a horrific experience” because of the frequent political interference and vandalism of property.

The point is, whether it is Uttar Pradesh (Gorakhpur BRD College), Bihar or Pune, government and municipal corporation-driven healthcare is in a shambles.

Municipal corporations across the country, especially in a rapidly-expanding city like Pune, are overburdened and overwhelmed with the demands and challenges of delivering basic civic amenities. The perennial problems of potholed roads, inadequate and inequitable water supply and poor solid waste management are among their biggest challenges. To expect municipal corporations to also construct hospitals and run them efficiently is unrealistic.

Municipal corporations can certainly run one or two hospitals efficiently, which is what they did decades ago when cities were of a manageable size. But the situation has changed dramatically today and it would be wise not to burden municipal corporations with the responsibility of running hospitals.

In fact, it would be most worthwhile if these hospitals were brought under the ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme of the central government which envisages establishment of health and wellness centres across the country. These centres are being designed to offer a variety of medical services ranging from pregnancy care, child care to management of mental illness and care for the elderly.

Certainly, hospital buildings lying idle or poorly-run civic/government hospitals across the country could be brought under the Ayushman Bharat scheme with the objective of transforming them into fully-functional hospitals and healthcare centres for the benefit of the poor.

First Published: Sep 09, 2019 15:51 IST