Medical Services on the Verge of Breakdown

A strike by junior doctors over (lack of) pay rises, among other things, is entering its fifth day today, causing chaos in over-worked state hospitals in Hyderabad. From an article in the Hindu on 15th February, 2012:

Medical services on Tuesday at government hospitals in the State Capital were on the verge of crumbling, thanks to the pressure of huge patient turnout even as senior doctors struggled to run outpatient, emergency and other vital hospital services. The temporary reinforcements appeared to be just not enough to manage the tertiary hospitals.

The senior doctors at Gandhi and OGH said that if boycott of emergency services by the medicos continue for a few more days at teaching hospitals, then temporary arrangements would not be able to prevent or stop the medical services from breaking down.

Superintendents of Gandhi and OGH have directed all the doctors to be present to handle the crisis. In fact, the Gandhi Hospital Superintendent has also served memos on a few doctors who were absent for duties on Monday and Tuesday.

The outpatient and emergency wards at Gandhi Hospital and OGH were manned by adequate number of doctors. However, the crucial recovery wings and ICU wards of nephrology, cardiology, orthopaedic and paediatrics came under immense pressure due to manpower shortage. The number of doctors was just not enough to handle the in-patient wards. The laboratory services at OGH and Gandhi were completely hit.

The officials at the Gandhi Hospital claimed that on Monday, 1,527 patients were given treatment at the hospital’s outpatient department.

According to Gandhi Hospital doctors, at present, the hospital has close to 1,200 patients admitted to its various inpatient wards.

This is not an isolated occurrence. Many hospitals in urban areas of India are overworked and underfunded, with 883 residents per government hospital bed. In rural areas there are often no hospitals at all: there are a staggering 5,583 residents per government hospital bed outside of cities. This forces many patients to head to private hospitals, which tend to be found in urban areas and out of the price range of most.

Sure, the government has neglected to invest in healthcare, spending only 1% of GDP on healthcare for years. But this is not a problem that the government – or anyone – can fix on its own. Not without better ways of dealing with the growing population and increase in lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes. Not without┬ádrastic innovation in healthcare technology.

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