'Stock nil' constant refrain at GMCH pharmacy, poor patients paying through the nose for medicines from outside
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, June 16: “The Gauhati Medical College has enjoyed a prestigious status in the country for its academic pursuits and patient care, and as a referral centre for specialty and super-specialty treatment,” claims the website of the State’s premier medical college and hospital.
Really? Ask patients and their attendants unfortute enough to seek treatment at the GMCH and a very different picture emerges. A dark and dismal picture showing how rapidly a medical institution can sink into chaos and decay, after an all-too-brief revival.
Around 2,000 patients living at or below poverty line come to the GMCH every day, seeking treatment and health care. Do they get any care at all, let alone health care? And how much money do they fork out to get the care that should be provided free? The GMCH of late, has been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons on such issues.
A reality check of the health care GMCH is now providing simply leaves one dumbstruck. After registration with Rs 5, the patient gets down to serious spending right and left, encountering critical shortages at every turn. Lists of 102 available drugs and 58 different types of surgical items do hang upon the hospital walls. But step into the hospital pharmacy and the stark contrast sinks in.
Most of the 102 drugs have the tag ‘not available’. The pharmacy is uble to furnish even cough syrup, rued a patient’s attendant. The stock phrase a patient’s attendant gets to hear regularly at the GMCH pharmacy, when producing a prescription by any doctor of the hospital itself, is ‘stock nil’.
The poor patient has no other recourse but to go to the pharmacies outside the hospital for medicines, coughing up fistfuls of money for medicines getting ever costlier by the day. A source in the hospital let this reporter know that only 50-60 different medicines are available in the hospital pharmacy now against 79 earlier.
Let’s hear about the GMCH straight from the horses’ mouths. “It is better to go to nursing homes. We can’t as we lack the wherewithal to pay for that. In the past 28 days, we had to buy each and every article - from common medicines to gloves for doctors. When we go to the hospital pharmacy we don’t get any medicines, not even cotton and bandage. The shelves of the pharmacy are full of medicines, but we don’t know what they are for,” said a man whose wife is undergoing treatment in the hospital for burn injuries.
“The situation was better than this when Himanta Biswa Sarma was at the helm of affairs. At least, we got a few medicines. If I ever get access to Dr zrul Islam, I’ll ask him what medicines I will get free of cost for my ailing child from the hospital pharmacy,” said Bipul Das, attendant of a patient from Hajo.
Released from the hospital after 14 days, the attendants of Islamuddin of Barpeta alleged that their patient with chest pain received no treatment at all. “We had to wait for doctors all the 14 days. We became fearful about asking for anything as their replies were harsh and uncivil. The doctors stay in their rooms with doors closed at night, and the nurses are no different. We would rather sell our property for treatment in a nursing home than languish in the GMCH,” they lamented.
The date for surgical operation of a kin of Champak Kalita of Chhaygaon has been deferred twice. “Maybe, the doctor is postponing the operation for not getting any cash from us,” he alleged.
To cut a long story short, in the GMCH a patient cannot be rest assured he/she is in safe hands.
About the scarcity of medicines in the GMCH pharmacy, it is alleged that a section of higher-ups in the hospital have an unholy nexus with private pharmacies outside. There are further allegations that for life-saving oxygen cylinders, attendants of patients have to go down on their knees before doctors.
The free-of-cost treatment claim by the GMCH is not only hollow but a sick joke on poor patients. Is this in conformity with a ‘welfare state’ that is supposed to provide a range of free services to its people who need them — one of the most important being medical care for the poor and destitute?
This sad downfall of the GMCH is symptomatic of the rot setting in government health services across the State. All this decrepitude in the tenure of a Health minister himself a physician!