Prescription for change

  • Govt should address demands of agitating doctors at Bir Hospital and end their strike
Prescription for change

Jul 31, 2014-

The first point under the ‘Health’ heading in the recently released budget for 2014/15 states that the government will develop infrastructure of health institutions. What follows is the government’s plan to establish a well-equipped ward for the head of the State, head of the Government and VVIP and VIPs in Bir Hospital. Providing excellent facilities to the very important people in the country is apparently supposed to stop them from flying abroad for treatment. But Bir Hospital, the country’s oldest medical institute established in 1889, clearly has other pressing concerns none of which is remotely related to providing facilities to the rich and powerful.

Since Sunday, around 300 resident doctors at Bir Hospital have been on an indefinite strike demanding reforms at the institution. They claim that the government repeatedly ignored their demand to provide basic hospital equipment such as a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), Computed Topography (CT-scan) and X-ray machines. The hospital indeed lacks an MRI machine. It has been six months since the 12-year-old CT-scan machine broke down and the digital X-ray machine has now stopped working. The C-Arm machine used during surgical, orthopaedic, critical and emergency care and also for radiotherapy is also out of order. Additionally, the doctors have also demanded the administration to immediately fulfil the vacant positions at National Academy of Medical Sciences (Nams), a government agency, which runs Bir hhospital. Around 21 positions in the Nams are vacant including the vice chancellor’s for the past three months. Bir Hospital has been without a director for the past two months.

This, however, is not the first time the hospital’s administrative and equipment problems have come out in the open. The CT scan machine had broken down in 2011 but the hospital administration was divided over whether to repair the machine or purchase a new one. The government eventually allocated Rs 100 million for the purchase of a new, more advanced machine but it could not be bought due to a complaint filed at the Commission for the Abuse of Authority and later at the Supreme Court on account of irregularities in the bidding process. Now, even if everyone agreed to purchase new equipment, it would take months to obtain them. Meanwhile, over 1,500 patients that come to the hospital each day from all over the country continue to suffer.

Bir Hospital is a haven for poor families as it provides medical treatment at a much cheaper rate compared to private institutions. So the government’s plan to equip the hospital for the powerful as opposed to the commoners who go there is deeply flawed. It should instead immediately fill the vacant positions to facilitate administration and speed up the procurement of the required machines within as soon as possible. The agitating doctors should also bear in mind that while their demands are valid, the people who are directly affected by the strike are the ones who most need their services. The rich and the powerful have so many other places to go.

Published: 01-08-2014 10:33

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