Government Hospitals Across Andhra Struggling in Absence of Health Minister

Government hospitals in the State seem to have become paralyzed in the absence of a Health Minister. The obstetrics and gynecology departments (OB/GYN) of all teaching hospitals force patients to share beds. Hospital authorities TNIE spoke to said the State government had not responded to repeated requests for sanctioning more beds. The Health Medical and Family Welfare Department was allotted ₹8284 crore for 2018-19 — a 27 percent increase compared to the last financial year. Of the budget, ₹685 crore was sanctioned for the 25 teaching hospitals in the State, but only ₹256 crore has been utilized till date, meaning over ₹427 crore lies idle in the Health Department’s kitty. Health Department Principal Secretary Poonam Malakondaiah has been dodging TNIE’s repeated efforts to reach her for comment.

Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu holds the Health portfolio after the resignation of BJP leader Kamineni Srinivas Rao in response to TDP falling out with the saffron party. Though the government has sanctioned just 9608 beds for teaching hospitals — 12 of which have obstetrics and gynecology wards — their managements have added more beds raising the count to 13,120. But it is still not enough due to the increasing number of patients, which doctors said has almost doubled in the last few years. The problem is particularly bad at obstetrics and gynecology wards as new mothers are made to share beds with each other along with their babies. Despite hospital managements having added around 1,000 beds to the 1,227 sanctioned for the wards, the situation is grim. The planning module of the Directorate of Medical Education (DME) recently sent a proposal to the State government requesting that 1020 more beds be sanctioned, but nothing has materialized. And Health Department officials have few answers to questions on the lack of a sufficient number of beds.

Director of Medical Education K Babji told TNIE the shortage of beds could be seen at every obstetrics and gynecology ward. “Our doctors are good, which is why so many patients approach us. Increasing the number of beds alone is not enough, resources too should be taken care of. It is the State government that should decide on increasing the number of beds at hospitals and it is the prerogative of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to approve it. All we can do is keep sending proposals,” he said. Even if more beds are sanctioned, government hospitals do not have the infrastructure or space to accommodate them. GGH superintendent S Babu Lal said AP Medical Services and Infrastructure Development Corporation (APMSIDC) was responsible for ensuring that there are enough number of beds at hospitals.

“The MCI’s nod too is required to increase the number of beds. Not just beds, there is a want of doctors too. We have been alerting officials of the dire state at hospitals repeatedly, but nothing has been done,” he said. APMSIDC MD Gopinath told TNIE the body could call tenders for the supply of beds in two weeks but first needs to be instructed to do so by the Director of Medical Education. “The problem is the lack of funds. The Directorate of Medical Education is hard pressed for money. How can tenders be called when payment cannot be ensured? Same goes for the construction of new blocks,” he observed. When contacted, MCI officials said nothing could be done unless the Health Department puts forth a proposal. MCI Secretary and Registrar (AP Chapter) K Satyanarayana Murthy said there was no hurdle to the government making a decision to this effect. “They can simply increase the number of beds and we will approve it. Not just beds, staff too,” he said.

Despite the dire lack of beds, most of the funds allocated to the Health Department is spent on the payment of salaries and maintenance of equipment. At least 30 new admissions are made to the old Vijayawada Government General Hospital’s gynecology ward every day. In 2017, 7595 deliveries were performed at the hospital; the figure for this year until July is 4289. In August alone, around 800 deliveries were performed. Though just 90 beds have been sanctioned, the hospital has accommodated 210. The situation at King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam too is despairing. Though only 120 beds have been permitted at the obstetrics and gynecology department, the management has added an additional 60, but the situation is so bad that every bed is occupied by at least two women.

Victoria Government Hospital, Visakhapatnam, has been sanctioned 147 beds — 60 for its gynecology wing. The institution holds as many as 300 in patients every day. “We can recruit additional staff only if the hospital is sanctioned 300 beds. We have requested for a new mother and child block with 100 beds, which would solve the problem of two patients being accommodated on each bed. The estimated cost of the project is ₹20 crore of which the government will provide ₹5 crore and ₹15 crore will be brought in using corporate funds,” explained Dr Hemalatha, VGH Superintendent. – New Indian Express

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