Tough for patients to reach this Purnia health centre

With dozens of shops encroaching on the access road, which ends in a huge muddy crater near the PHC in Dagarua block of Purnia district, any ambulance or motor vehicle transporting a patient would find it close to impossible to reach this health centre, which caters to a population of 3 lakh spread across 18 panchayats.
The haat or the local market blocks makes it difficult for ambulances to reach the Primary Health Centre in Dagarua block of Purnia district in Bihar.(HT Photo)
The haat or the local market blocks makes it difficult for ambulances to reach the Primary Health Centre in Dagarua block of Purnia district in Bihar.(HT Photo)
Published on Jun 24, 2019 02:46 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, DAGARUA (Purnia) | ByAditya Nath Jha, Dagarua (purnia)

At a time when Bihar is facing an encephalitis epidemic, and people are being made aware of the need to take sick children quickly to the nearest primary health centre (PHC), the access road to the PHC in Dagarua block, in Purnia district, is blocked by the local haat (market). The situation, which has prevailed for about a decade now, has come into sharp focus now because of the acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) epidemic, which has killed scores of children so far.

With dozens of shops encroaching on the access road, which ends in a huge muddy crater near the PHC, any ambulance or motor vehicle transporting a patient would find it close to impossible to reach this health centre, which gets 200-250 patients almost daily and caters to a population of 3 lakh spread across 18 panchayats. Located about 15km east of the Purnia district headquarters, this PHC has X-ray and various pathological test facilities.

However, just getting to the health centre is quite a task. “Reaching the Dagarua PHC is never smooth. You have to depend on the mercy of the shopkeepers and vendors to make a path to the PHC,” said a local resident, Md Suleman. “Often, the delay in reaching the PHC has taken the life of a patient,” he added.

Another local, Md Jahangir, said, “If the road had not been occupied by vendors and shopkeepers, my wife would have been saved. She had a stroke, and was declared brought dead because of the delay.” He recalled that the doctor had said then, “If she had come a little earlier, she could have been saved.”

Requesting anonymity, a staff member of the PHC said, “Doctors or medical staff can’t put up a fight over the issue of road connectivity, as we are quite vulnerable here. There have been several occasions when [shopkeepers] have hit us when we asked them to move back their shops to make the access road wider for any ambulance or vehicle coming to the PHC.”

Some of the vendors set up their temporary business right at the entrance of the PHC. (HT Photo )
Some of the vendors set up their temporary business right at the entrance of the PHC. (HT Photo )

Dagarua PHC medical officer Dr Abnish said, “We have approached the block administration and local police several times to clear the road encroached upon by the local market (haat) owner, but to no avail.” He added that it was common for the medical staff to be “abused and assaulted” any time they requested the shopkeepers to clear the access road. In fact, some of the vendors set up their temporary business right at the entrance of the PHC.

The tender for the haat management is floated every year, but this year, the process has not been undertaken, and the district administration is looking after the market management, collecting rent and tax from the shopkeepers.

The vendors say that they have permission to do their trade at this market. “We pay tax for our business and do everything with the permission of the man deputed by the haat owner,” said Md Alamgir, a vegetable vendor.

Speaking of their troubles in the past years, A PHC staff member said, “The haat owner and his henchmen are musclemen, and they claim to be very close to the administration and the police. We have written to block authorities and the police several times, but nothing has so far come out of it.”

Dr Abnish confirmed that from time to time, the local administration would try to clear the access road and the PHC area, but the shops came back almost immediately.

Md Salimuddin, another local resident, said, “An anti-encroachment drive won’t solve the problem until the authorities keep a regular check on the encroachers.”

A young resident, Md Sarfaraz, said, “The problem is with the issue of land ownership. Whether the PHC is on the market’s land or the market is on the PHC land has been the bone of contention for a long time.”

When asked about this, Dagarua circle officer Anu Amin said that he had no knowledge about it. “I don’t have any idea about this. Maybe some vendors or shopkeepers have grabbed road space,” he said, adding that he would look into the matter himself. About vendor encroachment on the PHC premise, he said, “We have never allowed them to sell on the hospital premises or on the road.”

Aside from the problem of encroachment on the road, there is the condition of the road itself. Locals said that the Dagarua PHC had been without a proper connecting road since 2006. “This has raised a serious question mark on the government’s claim that it is committed to give connectivity to people,” said a local resident.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2021