Within barely seven years of its opening, Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH) badly going to seed. A Rs 200 crore government hospital, expected to cater to sick or injured people primarily from four districts who would otherwise have to be taken for treatment to Dibrugarh or Guwahati at much expense, JMCH now finds it difficult to undertake even routine blood tests. Why? Because suppliers are not providing reagents above a minimum amount, as they have not been paid dues of about Rs 30 lakh. Surely this is not a forbiddingly large sum for the State’s fourth medical college and hospital to pay up. But then, JMCH has been lurching from day to day in hand-to-mouth condition. The government is reportedly yet to release about Rs 2 crore earmarked for JMCH last fiscal; no allocations have been announced so far this year, as the full budget can be taken up only by the next government. Meanwhile, parts of the hospital building, some outpatients departments and hostels remain incomplete as contractors are refusing to work with bills worth several crore rupees still pending. Then on Friday morning, ceilings over the dentistry and psychiatry departments in the hospital collapsed after heavy showers. Earlier incidents of ceiling collapse and fire alarms in JMCH clearly indicate shoddy construction and malpractices galore. With even basic construction and maintence in such sorry state, the iction if not paralysis over adding new sections like neurosurgery or gastroenterology departments threaten to leave JMCH stunted in growth. There have been all-too-frequent complaints that some other critically important units in JMCH are practically defunct. It is hardly surprising, considering the stagtion and chaos in JMCH, that some of its specialist doctors and senior professors have been quitting in the last few weeks, with more likely to follow suit. Nurses too are said to be suffering silently, having not received salaries for months on end. If this is how a government college and hospital, set up with much fanfare in the Chief Minister’s home district, is limping along — there is not much Tezpur and Barpeta medical colleges can expect in the way of quality infrastructure anytime soon. There have been long-standing allegations that doctors and other hospital staff are being rotated in these three government medical colleges merely to keep up appearances before the Medical Council of India. Despite this, the State government has made grandiose announcements of setting up more medical college and hospitals in Lakhimpur, gaon and Diphu. Either the State government does not apply its mind or it wants to derive electoral benefits from such announcements. Setting up medical institutions is the easier part, making them thrive requires health administrators to plan and follow up properly. Their repeated failure to do so reinforces public belief that when it comes to health care, Dispur has already surrendered to corporate hospitals and private nursing homes.