While the West fights to secure the best government healthcare policies for themselves, Indians feel safer if they opt to stay sick than seek government hospitals and medical centres for help. The reports of deaths of about 13 children within 24 hours, with a yearly toll of more than 1,300 young lives lost due to negligence in a government hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, tells us why our government-managed health sector is nothing but one complete disaster.
The deaths in Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College Hospital were due to the lack of oxygen supply to the patients, which even forced the staff to resort to manual pumping of oxygen for keeping the kids alive. The hospital had unpaid oxygen dues of about 65 lakhs, which the government alleges that it was sanctioned but somehow the payment failed to reach the agency, which forced them to cut supply.
An exact repeat of this horrendous ordeal was reported just hours ago at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in Farrukhabad, where 49 children lost their lives over the period of one month, allegedly because of lack of oxygen supply. With such cases coming under the scanner recently due to the massive death toll, more and more cases of medical negligence are being unearthed and brought to light.
India has had a history of such disastrous management of government healthcare institutions, be it epidemic control, sterilisation camps or fire safety. While the scarcity of beds and medical supplies, unhygienic conditions and lack of qualified doctors have been omnipresent issues all over the country, it is to be noted that a large majority of victims in all these mishaps happen to belong to a lower economic class of the society, thus showing how public healthcare has also become a business and not a service provided by the government for its people’s well-being.
One of the most infamous cases is those from the period of Emergency wherein forced sterilisations were conducted on over 6.2 million men, targeted mostly from rural areas and poorer social conditions. An estimated 2,000 men died of these botched sterilisations and many others were left with severe complications.
The other dangerous practice is the setting of ‘targets’- an estimated number of patients to undergo the procedure in a certain camp. Dr R.K. Gupta of the 2014 Bilaspur sterilisation deaths case alleged that if he is guilty then so are his superiors because they were the ones who gave him the target number of sterilisations and IUCD insertions to be achieved. The doctor was charged guilty of medical negligence for the deaths of 13 women and impairment of 65 others who underwent procedures at his camp. He was accused of using the same gloves and sutures and not following infection control protocols. Dr Gupta performed laparoscopic tubectomies on 83 women under a shocking 90 minutes time frame, that too in unsterile, unhygienic surroundings. The doctor, surprisingly, walked scot-free from the case and was prisoned only for 27 days following his initial arrest.
It is not just the public health care units that show negligence, private hospitals can be guilty as easily of the same. It was seen in the case of fire in 2011 at the AMRI Hospital in Kolkata, which claimed 89 lives. The infrastructure was so bad that the massive hospital did not even have basic requirements such as proper emergency or fire exits.
And while we watch and read about the sickening deaths of innocent children because of avoidable circumstances and apparent greed of authorities, it is only natural that one wonders what the worth of a human life is, in this country.