Under-construction buildings of the Dhaulagiri Zonal Hospital in Baglung Bazar, Baglung in this recent picture. Photo: Sangam Gharti Magar/Republica
BAGLUNG, Jan 11: After his son received neck injuries by falling off a ladder Dilbahadur Thapa of Tangram village took the boy to Dhaulagiri Zonal Hospital (DZH) for treatment. Health workers at the facility suggested him to go to Pokhara stating that they didn’t have doctor to attend the patient.
However, Thapa had not come prepared for the long journey. He returned home, took loan from neighbors and relatives and finally headed to Pokhara with the injured son. To and fro to Pokhara and few days of stay there for the treatment cost Thapa beyond his purse.
The case is the same with almost everyone who reaches out to the zonal hospital with hope of receiving treatment. Either they are referred elsewhere or they are offered ‘useless’ treatment, patients complain.
“It is not just in my case. Everyone is referred to Pokhara for treatment. They don’t have doctors, medicines, and equipments,” Thapa said adding that for even a small treatment patients have to spend huge amount in traveling to Pokhara.
Six years ago, it was a district hospital. In 2011, the facility was upgraded to zonal hospital which meant, it would provide better services and to bigger number of people. However, except for adding few numbers of beds, the hospital has seen no change, locals say. “It was 15-bedded hospital earlier. Later, 35 more were added. That is all,” remarked Thapa.
Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr Sagar Rajbhandari, does not deny it. He admits that the hospital is not at all ‘zonal’ in its service delivery. “We do not have specialist doctors to operate departmental services. Because of that we have been not able to provide the level of service we are supposed to,” he said.
Rajbhandari said that the health ministry has appointed some doctors for attending patients at the hospital but added that these doctors have been dishonest to their duty. He said that the hospital also has not been able to hold them accountable.
“Doctors who are supposed to work here mostly are absent. The only time you can see them around is with leave application or transfer letter,” he said adding that such culture has deprived the local population of health care promised by the hospital.
According to him, there is quota of 16 specialized doctors in the hospital, but only one post has been filled. “I’m that person who has filled that one quota. Other 15 quota are still vacant,” said Rajbhandari.
Elaborating on the reasons for the unwillingness of the doctors to serve at the hospital, Rajbhandari pointed to the unavailability of resources for them to earn by providing medical services through private clinics. “In urban areas doctors get to earn by offering services through private clinics and medical centers but this place does not provide such space for the doctors. People are poor here and if they get required treatment through hospitals, they won’t visit a private clinic. So, doctors show no interest to come here,” he said.
According to Tirtharaj Gautam, information officer at the hospital, the hospital has not been able to provide specialized services in lack of specialist consultant doctors. And this, he claimed, has hampered the hospital from providing quality health services. “Like a zonal hospital, the hospital is supposed to have 12 departments providing specialized services. However, in lack of specialists or consultant doctors, we have not been able to run these departments,” Gautam explained.
The hospital had a surgeon earlier, but he resigned few months back, Gautam informed adding another doctor, Amar Poudel, has not been in touch with the hospital, for some time now.
The health ministry has sent radiologist Dr Anuj Adhikari to the hospital in contract. Similarly, a gynecologist Dr Laxmi Sharma has been freshly appointed as well, in contract. “It’s difficult to retain them, no matter who comes here. We have scarcity of not only doctors but also health workers. Quota of nursing administrator, staff nurse and so on are yet to be filled,” Gautam said.
The hospital development committee that plays vital role in the development and smooth running of the hospital has lacks members for a long time now. This has affected in the completion of its two under-construction buildings. According to Rajbhandari, the committee gets political appointment and they have direct link with the government. In lack of committee members, important decisions cannot be taken and because of this, he said, hospital’s operations are affected.
“If the committee had members, I think, it would have been able to take necessary measure for appointing doctors. Along with that it would have been easier for upgrading hospital infrastructures also,” he said.