Why are so many people dying in Maharashtra govt hospitals? A ‘half-hearted’ solution & same old story

by Aditya Kumar

The state of public healthcare facilities in Maharashtra, India, has once again come under scrutiny as reports of patient fatalities and inadequate services surface. The Ghati government hospital in Aurangabad is among the facilities facing criticism for the shortage of medicines and medical equipment. Patients are being forced to seek treatment at private facilities due to delayed treatment and inadequate resources at government hospitals. The situation highlights long-standing issues in India’s government hospitals, including staffing vacancies, inadequate funding, and delays in the procurement of medicines.

Gangaram Bichare, a patient at the Ghati government hospital, shared his experience of being told to procure medicines from outside the facility. He had to spend Rs 100 for an auto ride to a chemist in a neighboring area to obtain an injection worth Rs 170. Bichare has spent around Rs 2,500 on medicines so far. Mehraz Patel, a member of the hospital’s management committee, admitted to the shortage of medicines and medical equipment at the facility. She emphasized that it was a systemic problem rather than a fault of the doctors.

The situation is not unique to the Ghati hospital. Nanded Government Medical College and Hospital also faced allegations of medicine shortage and patient fatalities. Health activists attribute the problem to the government’s “half-hearted” attempt to address gaps in the state’s procurement policy. The government’s efforts to procure medicines through the Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation have been plagued by delays and a lack of coordination. Additionally, the implementation of the Medical Goods Procurement Authority Act, which aimed to streamline procurement processes, has been slow.

The Bombay High Court has taken note of the fatalities in government hospitals and criticized the state government for failing to address the issue adequately. The court stressed that the burden and responsibility lie with the government and cannot be shifted to private players.

Retired principal secretary Mahesh Zhagde outlined the holistic nature of the problem facing government hospitals. He emphasized the need for a comprehensive study of patient numbers, bed availability, equipment, and staff training. Zhagde also highlighted the importance of effective monitoring of medicine procurement and timely delivery.

Despite the government’s efforts to address the issues, including setting up the Medical Goods Procurement Authority, the implementation has been slow. The authority is currently without a chairperson/CEO, further delaying the procurement of medicines and medical equipment. The chaos continues at hospitals like Ghati, where patient numbers far exceed the capacity of the facility, and medicines are in short supply. Patients are being asked to arrange medicines from outside the hospital in many instances, adding to their financial and logistical burden.

Health activist Dr. Abhijit More highlighted the inconsistency in the government’s policy around medicine procurement, leading to a shortage of essential medicines in hospitals. The lack of transparency and changing procurement processes create confusion and hinder efficient healthcare delivery.

The situation at government hospitals in Maharashtra, particularly the Ghati hospital, calls for urgent attention and action. Patients’ lives are at risk due to the shortage of medicines, delayed treatment, and inadequate resources. The government must prioritize the effective implementation of the procurement authority and address the systemic issues affecting healthcare delivery in public hospitals.

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