The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) has taken a stand in support of Dr Shankarrao Chavan Government Medical College & Hospital—where 35 deaths occurred in 48 hours—after a local MLA made the Nanded hospital dean clean its toilets. The association has condemned the public humiliation of the dean, Dr Shyamrao Wakode, who was forced to clean the toilets by Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde-led) MLA Hemant Patil.
“The unfortunate incident of multiple mortality that occurred in the Government Medical College was investigated by Central MARD after having elaborate discussions with the resident doctors of multiple departments of the said hospital, and it was clearly apparent that the reasons for the unfortunate event were primarily due to multifactorial causes which include a shortage of medical faculty, a shortage of class 3 and class 4 staff, medical servants, overall manpower, life-saving medicines, and resources,” the association said in a statement. An FIR has been registered against MLA Patil by Dr Wakode under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Issue across Maharashtra
MARD also noted that the lack of resources is a problem across government hospitals in the state. A senior resident doctor at JJ Hospital in Mumbai said the hospital is currently facing a shortage of some medicines as well as testing facilities. “Our job is to treat patients while the government’s job is to ensure there are adequate resources. There have been situations where doctors have spent money from their own pocket to supply medicines to patients whenever there has been a shortage,” the doctor said. In its statement, MARD also pointed out that the state government needs to take responsibility for the tragedy and rectify the issues of scarcity of resources across government hospitals, instead of “making doctors the scapegoat for their failure.”
‘Patients rush from pvt hospitals’
The Nanded hospital dean had told the press that many who died were critical patients who rushed to the government hospital from private setups. This was something that doctors from various public hospitals told mid-day happens commonly. “Private hospitals refer patients to government or municipal hospitals at the very last moment when the patient is critical. This is to show their death count as low,” said the doctor from JJ Hospital.
“In cases where patients are running out of funds, we arrange for financial help through fundraising. But we don’t let critical patients leave,” said a doctor from PD Hinduja hospital. A large number of the country’s population relies on private healthcare.
According to the 75th National Sample Survey released in 2020, this is true for about 55.3% of those surveyed. The survey noted that 73.7 per cent of those who were hospitalised in Maharashtra (with the exception of childbirth) had been treated in private hospitals. Part of why this is the case is due to the unavailability of public facilities in an immediate area or mistrust in public facilities.
Dr Abhay Shukla, the national convenor of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, noted that such a high percentage of preferences for private facilities hints at the failure of governments to expand public health services in accordance with the population in the state, unlike Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“Until the 1980s, Maharashtra had a well-developed public health system with not much privatization, but then a large number of private medical colleges started emerging. Doctors graduating from these colleges set up their own private hospitals, unlike in other states where doctors joined the public health system,” he said.
Dr Shukla said that there was large political support in the expansion of private health facilities, which hampered the growth of public facilities. “So public health services continued to lag behind in resources, while corporate hospitals grew,” he said.
‘Morale of doctors affected’
MARD President of the Nanded hospital, Shrikant Umale, noted that the humiliation the dean had to suffer has affected the morale of the resident doctors. No human being should be subjected to such humiliation, let alone the dean of a hospital,” he said.