DHADING, Sept 27: Setimaya Rana, a six-month pregnant would-be mother, was not feeling her baby's movement since the last few days. Worried, she went to the Dhading District Hospital for consultation on Monday. Before she could enter in the hospital, a message hung on the hospital's wall caught her attention. 'Video x-ray service closed', she read it carefully. She inquired about the notice with other patients and hospital officials and came to know that in lack of a doctor at the hospital most of the services provided by the hospital are affected. Disappointed, she stepped out of the hospital premises.
"I came to the hospital from very far," said the local of Nilkantha Municipality - 4. "I was not feeling the baby's movement in my womb. When I was at the hospital last time, they had advised me visit the hospital if I do not feel the baby's movement. I was anxious about it and therefore rushed to the hospital," she narrated. Even if that was not the case, Rana said that she was scheduled to visit the hospital for regular checkup. In lack of doctor or other crucial services, Rana said that she is getting hopeless.
Pregnant women are advised to have video x-ray scans in fourth, sixth and eighth months for ensuring that, the baby is safe. Along with Rana, there were many expecting mothers at the hospital for regular checkups. However, they were told to consult doctors in private clinics and hospitals.
In lack of doctors and staff members, crucial services like ultrasound scanning and X-ray services are closed. This has forced many service seekers either to return home or to go to cities for checkups that are very costly.
"Officials at the hospital suggested us to visit private clinics. We have been coming to this hospital for regular check up. Consulting doctors in private clinic is very costly and it's very hard for us to bear the cost," Rana said.
Even if some women might be able to fund doctor consultation at private clinics, Rana said there aren't any private clinics around. The district hospital is the only hope of many for health checkups in the district, mostly of the rural population.
"I am from a very remote area. Many of the women I meet the hospital are also from remote areas. Like me, they also don't have any option other than to return home without doing the checkup. We should have hefty amount of cash if we want to travel to city for health checkup," Rana said.
Due to cheaper fees and lack of health clinics around the area, patients throng to the hospital from far-flung areas in hope of treatment. Traveling to the headquarters is otherwise a big deal for the people from remote areas. Transportation service is not very smooth and as such people travel to the district hospital only if they are serious health concerns.
"People come here from far, far away in hope of receiving good treatment. Nevertheless, in lack of services, they return being even sicker. This is the condition of our district hospital," Rana lamented.
The hospital has closed operative, x-ray and other wards in the lack of doctors since the last three months. The hospital's administration informed that the some services are affected as the contracts of doctors and other officials were not renewed. Though the hospital has quota of four doctors, presently only a single doctor is at the hospital. Dr Deepa Bohora is the only doctor available at the hospital and presently she is working in the capacity of medical superintendent of the hospital.
"There are no other doctors. I have to look after patients and also handle administrative tasks," Dr Bohora said. "Without the required number of doctors, the hospital cannot provide services. Even our OPD is not functioning well," she added.
The post of medical superintendent has been vacant since the past two years. This has severely affected the hospital's abilities. "The center has not sent medical superintendent since the last two years. I have been working as the acting medical superintendent. But it is very difficult to carry on like this, the hospital is in a very sorry state," Bohora said.
Until last year, the hospital was 15-bedded. However, it was upgraded to 50-bedded last year. The upgrade however did not bring any changes to the quality of its service since necessary equipments and infrastructures were not availed, let alone the required number of doctors.
"Absence of doctors is a severe problem in government hospitals elsewhere too. Even in Kathmandu, Bir Hospital, doctors visit in hospital for name sake. They come late and leave before time," said a staff requesting anonymity. "Here they do not show up at all. Nobody monitors or regulates them. It is not without reason that government health service is pathetic," he added.
Meanwhile, Rana lamented that that the lack of health services is taking toll on her and her baby's health. “It is very crucial that the hospital resumes all its services at the earliest," she urged.
Dr Bohora shared that the hospital had written to the concerned ministry and department informing about the shortcomings at the hospital on several occasions. However, so far the shortcomings remain unaddressed. "We are in a very poor condition. If this continues, a time may come when we will have to close the hospital fully. We have written about it, sent letters to the ministry, concerned departments several times. But so far, things are far from changing," she stated.