Patients in Govind Ballabh (GB) Pant hospital, one of the largest hospitals run by the Delhi government, are being denied surgeries because of broken machines that have not been working for months.
Sanjeet Haldar, a 40-year-old rickshaw puller, told The Sunday Guardian that he waited for more than three months for neurosurgery at the hospital before his wife decided to bring him home because he was declined treatment. Haldar was admitted in the Department of Neurosurgery at GB Pant on 30 August 2016, and a surgery for a severe pain in his lower limbs and spine was scheduled for 16 September 2016. However, on the day of the surgery, the hospital authorities told him that the DSA (Digital Subtraction Angiography) machine, which performs spinal and cranial angiographies and therapeutic procedures, was not working. Subsequently, Haldar was asked to vacate the bed a few days later.
“A doctor came to me and asked me to sign a paper. I cannot read Hindi or English, but he told me that signatures of all the patients whose treatment require the DSA machine need to be taken to get the machine fixed. So, I signed it. An hour later, another doctor came to me and very rudely asked me to vacate the bed,” Haldar told this correspondent.
Similarly, another patient and friend of Haldar, Kailash, was made to wait for over 40 days for a spinal disc surgery. He left the hospital when the authorities refused to operate on him citing the non-functioning of the same machine.
While GB Pant boasts of having latest technological and scientific advances in healthcare, patients claim that surgeries are either being put on hold, or are not taking place at all.
Nagori Haldar, wife of Sanjeet Haldar, and two of their friends approached the Health Minister of Delhi for the first time in November, after which Dr R.N. Das, Additional Secretary of Health, wrote multiple letters to the Medical Director of GB Pant for appropriate action. In the copies of the letters accessed by The Sunday Guardian, the Health Department of Delhi had asked the authorities for an immediate surgery citing the patient’s deteriorating condition. The letter had also mentioned that the “hospital staff was not dealing with the matter seriously”.
The Health Department issued five letters to the Medical Director of GB Pant, Dr Rajeev Chawla, between 29 November 2016 and 6 January 2017, in spite of which Haldar was not treated.
“We have been going to Health Minister Satyendar Jain for the last three months. But every time we go there, a doctor directs us to Dr Das, who writes a letter to GB Pant’s director, Dr Rajeev Chawla. This has almost become a pattern. Every time we showed the letter to the doctors, they said they had sent the request to get the machine fixed. But they didn’t know when it will be fixed. On the top of that, they were extremely rude to us,” Raju, one of Haldar’s friends, said.
Dr Gautam, a neurosurgeon at GB Pant, confirmed that the DSA machine in the hospital has not been working for the last two-and-a-half months.
“The C-Arm system of the DSA machine, critical for needle placement to ensure a clear anatomical view, is broken. It has been sent for fixing, but when and how it will be fixed is not in our hands. We hope to have the machine back in another week or so,” he said.
Haldar said that he was not the only one who was denied treatment; at least three-four people from his ward left after they were turned away by the authorities.“They (doctors) keep you waiting for months and on the day of the surgery they back off saying the machine is not working,” he said.
Haldar had to be taken to two different private hospitals where he had to shell out Rs 12,000 to get the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) done as the MRI machine at GB Pant was also not working.
When Nagori Haldar went to return the medicines and other equipment that she had bought for the surgery, she was paid back only half the amount.
“They said that the medicines I bought were bought with old notes, which held no value once the new notes started circulating. I was given back only half the amount” she said.
NOWHERE TO GO
After GB Pant authorities failed to look into the timely treatment of Haldar, the Health Department directed him to the department of neurosurgery at Lok Nayak Hospital and Mata Channan Devi Hospital in Delhi, both of which declined treatment citing unavailability of the DSA machine.
The Health Minister, in front of this correspondent, suggested that Haldar be shifted to AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), but the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Health Minister said that transferring the case to AIIMS would mean that the entire process will take another five-six months due to paucity of beds and a long list of patients already waiting to be treated.
He also said that currently only GB Pant and AIIMS have DSA machines.
A doctor from AIIMS, who requested anonymity, said, “Non-functioning of machines at various government hospitals has only increased pressure on AIIMS. We try our best to attend to every patient, but it’s extremely difficult for us to cater to each one of them on time because the demand is enormous.”
According to the Economic Survey 2015-16, the expenditure on health care in India was 1.3% of the GDP, which is abysmally low as per the international standards.
There is a demand to increase the public health spending to at least 2% of the GDP in the upcoming Union Budget.