Sushila Amat of Siraha district with her newborn. She had to pay heavy fees for medical check ups and delivery service at a private hospital after local government health facility denied those services.(Republica)
Govt health facilities sending patients to private hospitals
CHANDRA AYODHYAPUR, Siraha, Sept 16: Fulkumari Sadaya of Chandra Ayodhyapur-6 gave birth to a baby recently. Her family spent Rs 50,000 on the delivery, which they managed by taking loans. Even during the birth of an earlier child, the family had to borrow money to meet the cost of delivery.
They incurred such high medical fees because both the operations were carried out at private hospitals rather than at a government-run facility, where deliveries are carried out free of cost.
“I have yet to clear the debt incurred during the birth of my first child. The interest they charge on such loans are so high that it is very difficult to pay them off,” said the nursing mother. “As I was sent to a private hospital this time as well, I had no choice but to take out loan again,” she said.
Sadaya does not regret going to private clinic though. According to her, government hospitals do not offer free services either. “They say they provide free medicines and other services but they never have medicines in stock. They send us to private hospitals even for simple tests,” said the daily wage earner.
Shushila Amatya recounted several unpleasant experiences during the pregnancy. The local health post she used to visit for check ups would ask her to undergo video x-ray examinations, a service unavailable at the government facility.
“We never got any medicines, including the iron tablets, free at the health post,” she said. She ended up accumulated huge debts because of the frequent visits to private hospitals.
Although well-heeled class in her village do provide loans to people when they are in crisis, paying it off is next to impossible, Amatya lamented. “Once we take loans from them, we struggle to pay back. That's because they charge very high interest,” she said.
There is hardly any household untouched by loan woes in the squatter settlement. Most of them fall into the debt trap during health emergencies such as child birth. As many families face the loss of mother or baby or both due to the lack of proper health care, most people do not think twice before taking high interest loans.
According to Sehad Khatun, the problem is not limited to 'poor squatters.' Even others are deprived of basic health services.
Khatun said clearing off debt incurred during the delivery of her grandchild four months ago is proving to be an insurmountable burden. “Even the district hospital provides nothing for free,” she said. “You need to have at least around 20,000 rupees before they prepare your patient for delivery,” she said.
Meanwhile, Dr Daya Shankarlal Karna, medical superintendent of Siraha District Hospital, said that the hospital has been doing its best to provide quality service to patients.