THE Maharashtra government’s principal secretary, health, was issued a contempt notice Tuesday due to non-compliance of court orders. Taking note of the abysmal condition of government health facilities that pushed a woman to give birth to a stillborn in February this year, the Bombay High Court had asked the government to set up the very basic facility, a primary health centre (PHC), in her village.
The government’s failure to abide by the direction resulted in Justices A S Oka and Gautam Patel issuing a contempt notice to the director of health services.
On February 23 this year, 21-year-old Tulsa Wagh from Morushi village in Murbad Taluka, Thane, had narrated her ordeal owing to the dismal healthcare infrastructure. A couple of weeks before that, Tulsa was in labour and had to be taken to the rural hospital in Tokawade village, 14 km away from her house. She had to travel in a private vehicle suffering jolts on the bumpy road all the way as repeated attempts to call the 108 emergency ambulance service went in vain. And that was not the end of her plight.
Though two doctors examined her at the Tokawade hospital, she was referred to the Ulhasnagar Central Hospital, almost 60 km away, owing to poor infrastructure in the village. After a back-breaking ride during which her water broke, Tulsa reached the Ulhasnagar hospital where she gave birth to a stillborn after a caesarian section.
Incidentally, in 2013, a public interest litigation (PIL) had been filed regarding the dismal condition of the rural healthcare infrastructure.
Following the PIL, the High Court had in September 2013 ordered that the Tokawade Public Health Centre be replaced with the Tokawade Rural Hospital by December 31, 2013. To obviate the tribal population travelling long distances, the health authority had to set up a PHC at Morushi village.
But when a team of lawyers and local activists visited the district later, they saw a different picture. A visit to the place by The Indian Express in February this year revealed that even though the signboard had changed, services in the hospital had not been upgraded.
The construction of the building was also incomplete.
The team of lawyers and activists filed a fact-finding report based on Tulsa’s case and the grim reality of the medical aid on offer. The report titled ‘Denial of Maternal and Healthcare Service to Tulsa Wagh’ was presented to the court on August 12, 2015. Lawyers Mani Prakash and Meenaz Kakalia had also filed a contempt petition over inept medical services that had resulted in Tulsa’s situation.