On Sunday, photojournalist Vinay Murmu made a frantic search for hospitals in Ranchi after his wife went into labour and began to bleed. A week earlier in April, another journalist Pravin Kumar ran pillar to post seeking emergency care for his wife after doctors indicated their baby might have died in the womb. Both the husbands accuse hospitals — state-run and private — of endangering lives as their wives struggled to get even basic services.
“It hurts me. I believed in the services of the government hospital as my first child was born in Sadar Hospital Ranchi. Now I have lost faith and had to take refuge in a private hospital,” says Murmu standing outside Ranchi’s Guru Nanak Hospital, where his wife is currently admitted.
Kumar says he can’t believe what happened to him: the private hospital to which he regularly went for his wife’s checkup refused to entertain him when it was found that the child would be still born. “I could not comprehend anything. They did not respond as it seems they did not have the required doctors, staffs. Why are they running the hospital,” he says.
While the government has ordered a probe stating that the “culprits will be punished”, the Jharkhand High Court took suo moto cognisance of the incidents and came down heavily on the state government Tuesday. The court asked the Health Secretary, Ranchi District Administration, and other heads of the hospitals whether lack of medical facilities or emergency treatment constitutes denial of the fundamental right under article 21 of the constitution?
Justice SN Pathak who placed the matter to the Divison Bench said: “The court cannot shut its eyes and allow the people to be left at the mercy of God… providing adequate medical facilities for the people is an essential part of the obligations undertaken by the government in a welfare state,” the court asked.
The court’s intervention has offered some solace to the family members. “I just want none others should face what we had to go through,” Murmu said.
Recounting the horrors of May 3 evening, he said that he went to a private hospital in Kadru area where he was asked to take his wife to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS). Since RIMS is a COVID-19 hospital and, recently, a microbiology lab technician turned positive, the apprehensive couple went to Sadar Hospital. “It was dark, there was none in the emergency. I took my wife in a stretcher to the rooms, and a nurse came sometime later only to express her helplessness…We rushed to Doranda government hospital where the staff refused to touch us, my wife was bleeding, she was asked to fend for herself. There was complete apathy.”
Murmu said that when the doctor arrived, after 35 minutes, they were informed that there was no pulse and was again told to go to a different hospital. “I was fed up. This way my wife would have died, so I rushed to a private hospital. I am not in a position to afford the private health care and that is why I had opted for government hospital services, but this has hit me,” he said.
In the first week of March, a Deputy Commissioner gave birth to a child in a government hospital in Godda. The government officers hailed it commenting on the improved healthcare facility in the state-run hospitals. Less than a month later, the two incidents laid bare the problems in health care.
Kumar has resumed his work at a Hindi news portal but the episode still haunts him. “However, what pinches me is that the same hospital where we went multiple times refused to help us. My wife was bleeding and they said that the Operation Theatre was shut. A colleague arranged for another hospital,” he added. He too pins his hope on the court saying that the systems need to improve for other people’s lives.
The High Court in its order made it clear that the “enjoyment of highest attainable standard of health” is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without discrimination of race, religion, political belief, economic and social condition.
“The right to health for all means should have easy access to health services without suffering financial hardship. No one should get sick and die because they are poor and cannot the health services at the time of need. Discrimination in health care is unacceptable and is a major barrier to the development,” the judge said.
A day after the court’s order, Principal Health Secretary May 6 held a press conference where he commented on the incident saying that the guilty will be punished. However, he added he has issued an order for other treatments such as dialysis and chemotherapy where one cannot change a doctor midway.
“A protocol on pregnant mothers have been formed. As of date, we have a list of 52,000 pregnant mothers who may deliver their child in May and we have asked all health establishments to be ready. If the delivery is expected in the next few days, the tests need to be done now. If someone goes into labor pain in an emergency then too…please be assured that there won’t be any more problems.”
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