Left with just seven days of food, 40 units of blood nearing expiry and a meagre stock of critical care medicines, Sadar Hospital, one of Darjeeling’s most preferred emergency medical centres, has taken a hit despite being kept out of the purview of the indefinite strike in the hills, now in its eleventh day.
Over the past week, its patient count has dropped to a third, and staff are getting increasingly uneasy with payday approaching. “We had sent an ambulance to Siliguri to bring in vegetables and other items. It was searched and the driver harassed. Now we cannot send an ambulance to bring food. We have four types of medical diets to serve patients everyday. We don’t know what will happen,” Saikat Pradhan, the hospital’s superintendent, told The Indian Express.
Around 142 patients are currently admitted in the 342-bed hospital, which usually caters to around 375-400 patients at any time of the year. The staff, including around 40 doctors, too are bearing the brunt. “Most doctors and other medical staff live here with their families. It is difficult to find food stuffs now. What we will do? We have to attend to patients here.
How will we find food for home?” asked Pradhan, who lives with his wife and child in Darjeeling. While the hospital has adequate stocks of general medicines, it is facing an acute shortage of emergency drugs, which are outsourced.
“We outsource critical care medicines and emergency drugs, for which we have a budget. But since the banks are shut, we cannot buy them. The Internet is down and our communication with the chief medical officer and Swasthya Bhawan (the state health department headquarters in Kolkata) has broken down,” said Pradhan.
The strike, however, has not stopped the hospital’s 450-odd employees — comprising doctors, nurses, group D staff, cleaners etc. — from coming to work regularly. But with the end of the month approaching and the ATMs and banks still shut, the administration is worried about how it will disburse salaries.
“All our leaves are cancelled. Our staff are coming to work. But what if they don’t get their pay at the end of the month? We will shortly write to the chief medical officer about the issue,” said Dr S K Sariswal, medical officer. Outside its blood bank is a board that says there are only 40 units of blood remaining, all of which expire on June 29. These include no negative blood groups, and just five units of B+ blood.