A six-bed hospital,one doctor on duty and one ambulance were what Masrakhs primary healthcare centre had on July 16 when 28 children were rus-hed there after eating the midday meal at a Chhapra school.
The guardians of several children had them treated at private clinics. They have been alleging a weak government response to the crisis. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar claims to have responded quickly but the parents of most of the 23 children who died have questioned why it could not think of airlifting the children to Patna or ru-sh an expert team to Chhapra.
The primary healthcare centre,6 km from Gandaman village where the tragedy struck,is supposed to cater to a population of over three lakh from two blocks,Panapur and Masrakh,with its single ambulance and three doctors (till then),none of them with the expertise to deal with cases of poisoning. The government has posted two more doctors after the midday meal tragedy.
As per the hospitals records,medical office in-charge Anisur Rahman Ansari was the only doctor on the 2-8 pm shift when the schoolchildren were being brought in. The sanctioned posts for a compounder,a dresser and a fourth-grade employee are vacant. It was beyond the doctor and the hospital to handle such a large number of patients.
In the absence of immediate symptoms,Ansari said,three patients were administered an anti-emetic to prevent vomiting,treatment for food poisoning. Soon,he said,he realised this was poisoning rather than food poisoning.
Though we had adequate stocks of the antidote Atropine parents had got anxious,making it difficult to concentrate. By evening,we had admitted 28 patients. A few others were being treated at private clinics, he said.
Administering Atropine is standard treatment for poisoning,but needs experts to regulate the dose,Ansari said. Experts are needed to treat side effects of poisoning such as paralysis of muscles and drooping eyelids. Plus,we had no infusion pumps or micro-drip equipment here to administer the antidote faster, he said.
By 4 pm,I had administered Atropine to all 28 patients and referred them to Ch-hapra, he said. There was no ambulance. I arranged a vehicle to take my son Shiva to Chh-apra,where he died, said Raju Sah of Gandaman. Ansari said he called up Maraura and other places for ambulances.
Pointing at a building on the campus where a 330-bed community health hospital is coming up,Ansari said a PHC cannot be expected to deal with a disaster management kind of situation. The PHCs out-patients wing deals with 125-140 people daily.