- Bijapur District Hospital in Chhattisgarh was facing acute doctor shortage
- Lucrative perks offered by District Collector helped in hiring new doctors
- 80% posts of doctors are still lying vacant in the state
Bijapur, Chhattisgarh: Satyama, 32, has given birth to a healthy baby girl in Chhattisgarh’s newly-renovated Bijapur District Hospital. She, however, shudders to recall her previous pregnancy.
Three years ago, when she required a C-Section surgery, she had to travel 160 kms away to Jagdalpur as Maoist violence in the region had scared off doctors and specialists from Bijapur hospital and performing surgeries was out of question there.
Satyama undertook a painful four-hour journey to reach Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur and delivered her baby there.
“For about four hours I was in an ambulance, in pain, and was bleeding. Then my water broke… I was so nervous. When I recall that moment, I cry,” she said.
Twenty-eight-year-old Sharda’s baby, on the other hand, could not survive the four-hour long ordeal and was still born.
Sharda’s brother Lamini recalls the trauma his sister experienced during her first pregnancy. “We had taken my sister to Jagdalpur because she couldn’t deliver at the district hospital. They managed to save my sister but the baby died by the time we reached Jagdalpur.”
With its own gynecologist in the district hospital now, Sharda, who is due to deliver again in two weeks, is hoping for a smooth delivery.
The man behind giving the hospital a makeover is Dr Ayyaj Tamboli.
Dr Tamboli, a medical graduate who joined the Indian Administrative Services, is currently the District Collector of Bijapur.
When he got the responsibility, he first upgraded the hospital with funds available under the National Health Mission and the District Mineral Funds. He then brought in expertise and equipment with the help of the Public Health Foundation of India and the UNICEF.
The result was that the hospital was equipped with a new ICU, two new operation theatres, a blood bank and a 50-bed maternal and child healthcare unit.
After this, in September last year, he had put up an appeal on social media that was widely circulated. It called for radiologists, anesthetists and paediatricians in the Maoist-hit district and offered lucrative perks to the doctors. An year after his appeal, the number of doctors in the district has tripled from seven last year to 20 this year.
“Within three days of posting the appeal, I received 46 resumes from specialists and 66 resumes from MBBS doctors who were ready to come here,” he said.
“Most doctors want to be in metro cities or urban areas. That’s why we need to create that kind of facilities for doctors in rural areas. It is important to have an infrastructure that attracts doctors,” Dr Tamboli added.
Dr Nagulan, 30, quit his job at a hospital in Chennai to work in Bijapur district hospital as a surgeon. Recounting his first visit to the hospital with state-of-the-art equipment, he said, “We usually don’t have advanced instruments in district hospitals like the ones we have here. Most private hospitals also don’t have it.”
Despite the region being hit by Maoist violence, 28-year-old Dr Arun Chaudhary from Aligarh decided to join the hospital.
“When I told my friends and family that I might work here, they asked me why I was putting my life in danger. However, I wanted to work in an area where there was a real need for doctors,” he said.
“Earlier, people of this district had to travel a 160 kms for treatment, but not anymore,” he added.
In less than a year, the number of stillbirths in Bijapur has come down from 25 to 15. The number of cases referred to the city hospitals has also gone down from 140 last year to 28 this year.
The model has gone beyond Bijapur to help address the severe doctor shortage in other Maoists-affected districts in Chhattisgarh.
R Prasanna, Chhattisgarh’s Director of Health Services said, “This project was started on a pilot basis in Sukma and Bijapur. This year, the state government has allocated money in the budget for similar projects in 10 other districts.”
He also said that the state government has increased MBBS seats in the state by setting in six new medical colleges.
After Dr Tamboli’s social media appeal about incentives for doctors, quality healthcare has reached this remote and violence-hit district, but with about 80 per cent posts for specialist doctors still vacant in Chhattisgarh, a lot more needs to be done to make up for years of conflict and neglect.