Understaffed and overcrowded, Purnia’s oldest hospital struggles to treat patients
A 300-bed hospital with a sanctioned strength of 60 doctors, presently has only 36 doctors, risking the lives of patients. That is the story of the Purnia Sadar hospital, which was established in 1858 and is one of the oldest hospitals in the region. Understaffed and overcrowded with patients, the hospital is struggling to provide proper care to all those who come for treatment. Moreover, of the 36 doctors present, five are on study leave, making the situation more worrying for present doctors.
“Doctors who are on study leave can be seen running their private clinics just beside the sadar hospital. The health department is helpless and can’t take any step against them,” said a hospital official, not willing to be identified.
As far as paramedics are concerned, they number just one-third of the total strength in this hospital, where patients come not only from Purnia, but also from all the seven districts of Seemanchal and Kosi regions.
These two regions comprise Araria, Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnia (Seemanchal) and Supaul, Saharsa and Madhepura (Kosi).
“The flood of patients from other districts has compounded our woes and we often find it extremely difficult to cope with the situation arising from unprecedented crowd of patients. Other district hospitals also refer their patients to this district hospital,” said Purnia civil surgeon Madhusudan Prasad.
About 1,500 to 2,000 patients visit OPD (outpatient department) of the Purnia Sadar hospital. Nearly 150 to 200 patients are treated daily at the emergency ward.
Five hundred patients are currently undergoing treatment in 300 beds in the hospital. “Besides 300 beds, we have arranged for 150 extra beds, but 450 beds are not enough to provide treatment to all who come here. Many patients have occupied spaces like the hospital verandah for treatment,” Dr Prasad said.
The hospital has an ICU and a dialysis unit but they are lying defunct as there is no trained medical staff to run them. The only silver lining for the Sadar hospital are the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), maternity ward and the orthopaedic ward, which have provided some respite to patients.
Health services in Purnia
Not just the Purnia Sadar hospital, but health services in the whole district are inadequate for the district population. Out of total sanctioned posts of 348 doctors in the district, only 113 posts have been filled. Of these 113, 17 are on study leave.
“Just 96 doctors have to manage two sub-divisional hospitals, two referral hospitals, three community health centres (CHCS) and six primary health centres (PHCS),” the civil surgeon said.
Besides the Sadar hospital, the district has two sub-divisional hospitals at Dhamdaha and Banmankhi, two referral hospitals at Rupauli and Amour, three community health centres (CHCS) at Baisa, Kasba and Jalalgarh and six primary health centres (PHCS) at Dagarua, Shrinagar, Krityanand Nagar, Bhawanipur, Barahara Kothi and Baisi.
The sub-divisional hospitals have 75 beds each, while the referral hospitals and CHCS have 30 beds each. The PHC has six beds.
The district has 472 sub-health centres, which have not seen a doctor for over two decades. “These sub-health centres just exist as they do not have doctors and we have to visit the district hospital even for minor illnesses,” said Shanichar Rishi, ward member of Bebari village under Babhni panchayat of Dagarua.
Purnia has a population of about 35 lakh and one doctor has to cater to nearly 30,000 patients, against the national average of 1,900. 8,000 people have to struggle for just one bed at the Sadar hospital.
A Glimmer of hope
Though health services in the district are nearly abysmal, there has been some good news. UNICEF and the state health society opened the first model labour room with 8-labour tables in Purnia Sadar hospital, in May 2018.
Purnia district magistrate Pradeep Kumar Jha, who took keen initiative in opening the model labour room, also gave a boost to the rural immunisation programme by opening model immunisation centres at Baisa, Bhawanipur and Dhamdaha.
Caesarean section surgeries are being performed at Banmankhi and Dhamdaha sub-divisional hospitals.
These hospitals are also equipped with blood storage facility, making them tiny glimmers of hope in an otherwise abysmally poor district in terms of health services.