SIRAHA, Jan 23: In recent years, giving delivery to a child in a private health institution has become so costly that it can leave a middle-class family debt-ridden. That is the reason why people opt for government hospitals and birthing centers for delivering babies. As guaranteed in the Safe Motherhood Program of the government, public hospitals must provide free maternity service. However, free maternity service is limited only to papers, according to pregnant women seeking such service.
A few weeks ago, Sitadevi Pal of Bodebarsain was admitted to Lahan-based Ram Kumar Sarada Uma Prasad Muraraka Memorial Hospital while giving birth to her daughter Mamata. She preferred the hospital expecting minimal charges as the hospital offered government-sponsored Safe Motherhood Program. She was greatly disappointed when she had to pay exorbitant charge for the services which were supposed to be provided free of cost.
Those who visit this hospital for delivery are asked to take video X-ray in the beginning along with various other tests. Sadly, the hospital does not have these services. As a result, the patients have no other option than to go to the nearby Shreya Polyclinic. This polyclinic is being operated by Dr Sunil Kushwaha, medical superintendent of the same hospital which refers patients to undergo various tests.
The polyclinic has been charging hefty fees to the pregnant women who come to the hospital expecting free service. According to Pal, patients are also asked to buy saline water, medicines and even gloves required for delivery. She laments that she had to spend around Rs 15, 000 in total including the ambulance charge.
"We had to pay for all the services and the hospital did not even provide us with warm clothes that the government had assured for both the mother and the newborn. We did not even get the transportation expense," said Pal.
This is not the only hospital which has been depriving women of free maternity service and allowance as the situation is no different in other hospitals. Apart from the bed and the doctor's charge, pregnant women are compelled to pay for everything.
"I think it would be more convenient for us to go to private hospitals because the cost is no different," said Pal, adding, "I had no idea that public hospitals can be so costly."
According to Medical Superintendent Kushwaha, the hospital has provided all the facilities that are available there.
"We have no option other than sending the patients to private hospitals and clinics for services that we don't have," he said. He says, the municipality is yet to provide them the money for the warm clothes and transportation expense for the pregnant women.
Meanwhile, Mayanath Acharya, accountant of the municipality, informed Republica that the same hospital has already been provided with Rs 900,000 from budget allocated in the current fiscal year. However, the hospital has submitted details of only Rs 600,000, according to Acharya. Not just that, the government has provided Rs 1.4 million so far for this particular hospital for the Safe Motherhood Program.
Last year, the hospital was provided Rs 7.5 million for the Safe Motherhood Program.
Meanwhile, many women have stopped going to District Hospital, Siraha for delivery arguing that the service charge there is no different than private hospitals.
The hospital has been facing shortage of medicine since the beginning of the current fiscal year. "How will we treat patients in lack of medicines and equipment," said Dr Nagendra Yadav, Medical Superintendent of the District Hospital.
Chief District Officer Shreedhar KC claimed that the administration does not have budget to purchase medicines for the hospital.