Open air surgery
The shocking pictures are to be seen to be believed. Patients in a part of Assam are undergoing surgery lying on benches under open skies, with bottles of saline and medicines hanging from crudely fashioned stands. But this is no war zone where soldiers and civilians have to be urgently operated upon in makeshift operation theatres. This has been happening at Somoria in Boko on the outskirts of Guwahati. Poor villagers with ailments or injuries were allegedly turned away from the government hospital at Somoria by a doctor with the excuse that he will attend to them ‘better’ at his living quarters. The hapless patients were made to cough up a few thousand rupees as ‘operation charges’ before the doctor got down to perform the surgeries at the front yard of his government residence. This is but a latest example of how the State Health department under Dr zrul Islam is going to the dogs. In village after village, primary health centres are functioning without essential medicines, medical stores and blood banks. There are reports of PHCs in remote and hilly areas without electricity and telephones. News about childbearing women forced to deliver babies outside PHCs or government hospitals while waiting in vain for a doctor to arrive — have become sickeningly frequent. The Tarun Gogoi government has been putting the blame at the Centre’s door for cutting funds to welfare schemes. But the Health Minister has done nothing to arrest the rampant indiscipline among a section of government doctors hell-bent in extorting fees privately from every patient however poor, as well as the continuing downslide in health care standards.