Ailing Punjab govt hospitals: Understaffed, overburdened Patiala medical college turns men into machines
Doctors at breaking point as staff crunch bites at Patiala medical college; super specialty wing with 14 new departments a non-starter due to lack of specialists, technicians; hygiene another big concern
Despite being located in a city, which is home to a former chief minister and the current health minister, the government medical college and Rajindra hospital here is struggling to deliver quality healthcare to patients. Acute staff crunch, with just a bunch of doctors and limited support staff holding the fort, has rendered the state-of-the-art machinery at this tertiary healthcare facility almost defunct. The result: Patients are the biggest sufferers.
Patiala is a home town of former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh, and present health and medical education minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra. After taking charge of the health portfolio, the minister had last month, visited government medical college and Rajindra hospital and passed on directions to officials for upgrade of facilities. Despite the minister having pulled up hospital administration over lack of cleanliness in the medical units and wards, it’s a status quo at the facility.
50% faculty shortage
An acute shortage of medical and paramedical staff has hit the medical college and Rajindra hospital, which once was the lifeline of patients of the Malwa region. The departments are functioning with just 50% staff, and there is a 60% shortage of pharmacists. Add to it, a major crunch of housekeeping employees. As a result, the super specialty wing, constructed at a hefty cost and having latest equipment, has failed to kickstart properly.
“Just a handful of faculty members and junior residents are running the show”, said a doctor, pleading anonymity. “The political system works with absolute power and zero accountability, whereas we have no facility, staff and medicine, but we are more than 100% accountable. If they want to provide world class health services, they have to sort out this staff and medicine shortage problem. All this should be done before making surprise visits to score brownie points on minor issues”, added a senior faculty member.
Junior residents running the show
Dr HS Rekhi, medical superintendent, Rajindra Hospital said it’s a known fact that the hospital is facing shortage of staff. “As a doctor, faculty member, union leader and now as senior functionary, I’ve been continuously taking up this issue. What is the fun of having buildings, when you don’t have doctors.” He said there are no nephrologists, neurologist at this facility, adding that just presence of one or two urologists, cardiovascular, gastro, pediatric and plastic surgeons was not enough.
“I am unable to provide super specialty services to my patients. There is need to hire super specialists as hospital has latest equipment, and we can provide best treatment to patients. Things will only get sorted with positive intervention of government”, Rekhi said. He said in every ward there are only two sweepers against need of eight. “How can I ensure proper hygiene?”, he asked, saying there is need to immediately hire class four staff, pharmacists and more senior resident doctors.
“As of now, junior resident doctors, some senior resident doctors and faculty members are managing the entire operations of the hospital,” Rekhi added.
The Punjab government and the Centre have spent ₹150 crore for the super specialty wing of the Rajindra hospital. A total 14 departments including cardiology, neurology, gastroenterology, cardio therapy, vascular surgery, neurosurgery, neonatology, pediatric surgery, endocrinology, medical and surgical gastroenterology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, nephrology and neurology has been established at the hospital. But there are hardly any doctors. “The salary is very low as compared to private sector, thus I have resigned”, said a doctor, who recently left his job.
‘Patients are often referred to PGI, other hospitals in Chandigarh’
“It’s centrally located city and patients from entire Malwa are referred here. In absence of doctors and services, patients are further referred to the PGI or a private hospital”, said Baldev Singh, an ambulance driver, who said he has to daily shift patients from the hospital to the PGI or other Chandigarh healthcare facilities.
Urologist and principal of medical college, Dr Harjinder Singh, said, “I have taken up matter of shortage of staff with the minister and higher authorities. I do hope that the minister, who himself hails from Patiala, will surely put in efforts to end this staff crunch and ensure better facilities to patients.”
Nursing association president, Karamjeet Kaur, said there is an urgent need to hire support staff. “We are facing problem of hygiene and cleanliness as there is no or just meagre staff. The private contractor doesn’t pay regularly to outsourced staff. This is another major problem,” she said. Kaur added that there is shortage of medicines and consumables, which the government should provide at earliest.
The present college building was constructed in 1953 for admission of 50 MBBS students whereas at present 225 MBBS, 144 postgraduate, 6 MSc (biochemistry, anatomy) 50 BSc nursing, 30 post basic nursing, 10 BSc medical (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry), 40 DMLT, 60 D-pharmacy and 12 radiographer diploma students are admitted every year.