The heart-rending incident of a couple in Bongaigaon recently selling off their newborn son to pay their hospital bills has once again highlighted the archy in the health sector in Assam. The day labourer had first got his wife admitted at the Bongaigaon civil hospital after her labour pains began. But surprisingly, the government doctors told them to go elsewhere because supposedly it was not possible to perform a routine caesarian section and deliver the baby at the civil hospital. So the helpless couple approached a private hospital and the childbirth was carried out successfully. Then their real hardship began. The hospital magement billed the couple Rs 29,000/-. After desperately trying to raise this amount, the couple had to take a terrible decision. They made up their mind to sell off their son, their firstborn, for Rs 32,000/- to a family known to a nurse at the hospital. The hospital magement allowed the couple to leave only after they paid off almost the entire amount billed. Reportedly this private hospital is owned by a senior government official. After word of the incident got around and was reported in the press, the embarrassed State government and BTC administration directed district officials to take immediate action. The newborn child was recovered and turned over to its vastly-relieved parents. It is a sobering story showing how government hospitals and health centers are shamelessly abdicating in their responsibilities to the poor, turning them over to the mercies of private hospitals. Earlier the common complaint was that many doctors in government hospitals send out patients, well-to-do or poor, to private diagnostic centers and laboratories to get tests done at much expense, simply because such doctors were later paid a commission. Now government doctors turning away poor patients to private hospitals is a great shame, which spells total ruin for such patients who have to sell off land, orments or other family property. It is to the utter discredit of the Health department that its services have been allowed to deteriorate to such a low level. The State government keeps announcing schemes with much fanfare for childbearing mothers, girl child and many others, but most of these schemes are now just on paper.
Food for thought