The plight of a tribal woman in Murbad taluka of Thane district, who delivered a stillborn owing to grossly inadequate healthcare facilities in the region, appears to be only the tip of the iceberg. While Newsline reported on the poor condition of a rural hospital in the taluka, the absence of proper care for pregnant women is a widespread problem in these villages located just 120 km from Mumbai.
Jaya Songal (27) managed to deliver her baby, but has been facing serious health complications following a botched-up surgery at Ulhasnagar Central Hospital. A resident of Tulai village in Murbad, she was sent to the Ulhasnagar hospital by the staff at the village public health centre (PHC).
“The staff at the Tulai PHC referred Jaya to Ulhasnagar without even checking her,” says Jaya’s husband Vishnu, who works as a daily-wage labourer. Through her nine-month pregnancy, no ‘ashaworker’ or health worker visited her, though the state government mandates this support.
“No ashaworker came to us or took us to a PHC in Tulai,” says Jaya, who now resides in her maternal home in Jhapwadi village nearby.
The Janani Suraksha Yojana under the Centre’s National Rural Health Mission stipulates cash assistance as well as pre-birth and post-birth care by “establishing a system of coordinated care by field level health worker”. The scheme even provides for an ashaworker to report to the auxillary nurse midwife of the PHC and bring the woman to the sub-centre/PHC for registration. Jaya had no such assistance, reveals her husband.
Jaya, who had delivered a stillborn the previous time, was shifted to the Ulhasnagar hospital, 60 km away, in an ambulance provided by the PHC. After a two-hour bumpy ride to the hospital, two doctors examined Jaya.
She needed a Cesarean-section, the doctors made the family sign a declaration and, eventually, a hysterectomy ensued. “The effect of the anaesthesia was over when I heard doctors screaming at the nurses that I was bleeding even after the surgery and that they had to remove my uterus,” she says. Owing to severe blood loss, Jaya was eventually shifted to Mumbai’s J J Hospital, where she was administered blood, kept under observation for 13 days. Her medical complications, arising from the botched surgery, continue.
Thane District Civil Surgeon Dr Gauri Rathod admits that the condition of PHCs in these areas is bad. “We are trying our best to reach the remotest areas. There is a dearth of postgraduate doctors. We have facilities in Shahpur where women can undergo a Cesarean-section,” she says.
Following the Newsline report on Monday, she also sent an outreach resident medical officer Dr Ashok Kamble to take stock of both Tulsa’s and Jaya’s cases. “We are trying to get gynaecologists at some of these centres and to improve conditions of health facilities,” says Dr Rathod.
Local activists have petitioned the High Court seeking directives for upgrade of facilities in these rural PHCs.