The Madhya Pradesh government’s health care policy says “irrespective of age, gender, and place” people have the right to access high quality and affordable healthcare. A series of disturbing visuals that have emerged in the past few days from various parts of the state, however, call out the hollowness of the claim.
Last week, a video clip began making the rounds on social media showing the conditions inside the maternity ward of the district hospital in Shajapur, around 156 kilometres west of Bhopal.
It had four persons — two new mothers and their babies — on one bed. Bearing immense pain following delivery, the women were strapped for space. Their relatives slept on the floor besides them.
“In these times of corona, proximity to other patients scares us, but we have no choice. My daughter is admitted,” said one such relative, too scared to reveal her identity.
Acknowledging a bed crunch, Dr BS Maina, a civil surgeon at the hospital, merely said, “The scarcity is being addressed.”
In another video, a body was seen being transported in a garbage disposal vehicle in Umaria district, some 423 kilometres east of the capital. The person had succumbed to injuries at the Chandia Community Health Centre (CHC).
Earlier, the ambulance linked to 108 service arrived late to ferry him and wife — she survived the accident, though — to the hospital. This delay may have been one of the reasons for his death.
Dr RK Mehra, the Umaria District Chief Medical and Health Officer, admitted that dedicated vehicles to carry the dead are available only at the district hospital and at a couple of other facilities.
The third incident was reported on Independence Day from Satna district, around 440 kilometres northeast of Bhopal.
Neelam Adivasi gave birth to a baby on a muddy pathway as the ambulance couldn’t reach her village due to the poor road condition.
“My wife had labour pain on Sunday. I called Janani Express in the morning but the ambulance reached almost 2-3 hours late. Then the driver said he couldn’t drive to the village due to the poor condition of the road. We were left with no option but to cover around two kilometres on foot,” Adivasi’s husband Pankaj Adivasi said.
The tribal woman delivered before reaching the ambulance. She was then taken to the hospital in that vehicle.
“The ambulance driver and attendant safely brought the woman and her baby to the hospital. Now, they are absolutely fine,” Block Medical Officer Dr Sarvesh Singh said.
In another case, last Friday, the staff at the Jhiri Village Model Primary Health Centre in Shivpuri, over 300 kilometres north of Bhopal, helped a pregnant woman deliver — the hospital room lit up with candles and torches.
The power supply to the facility had been disrupted for eight days by then due to floods, officials said. The hospital’s Auxiliary Nursing Midwife said she had informed her superiors about the power problem. The mother and the baby remain healthy, she said.
The Central government’s guidelines for public health centres say they must have power backup.
Such community and primary health centres are often life savers for India’s rural population. These incidents prove that the Madhya Pradesh government health care sector’s condition is anything but healthy. The Central government’s figures show it is among the top five states with the highest shortfall of surgeons at 302.
There is also a 28 per cent shortage of public health centres and a 37 per cent shortage of community health centres in the state’s hinterlands.
Of its 52 district hospitals, only 14 have functioning CT scan machines. Twenty-three of the 1,280 ventilators available in its 13 government medical colleges are non-functional.
When NDTV asked state Health Minister Dr Prabhuram Chaudhary about the sorry visuals, he said, “We can’t be negative all the time.”