'We have no facilities, but patients see us as villains': Telangana doctors air their woes

Calling the system "faulty", doctors say that government hospitals face several challenges such as a severe shortage of drugs arising from shortage of funds.
'We have no facilities, but patients see us as villains': Telangana doctors air their woes
'We have no facilities, but patients see us as villains': Telangana doctors air their woes
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It was a Sunday night when four relatives of a woman patient at Hyderabad's Osmania General Hospital (OGH), were informed by doctors, that she had died during treatment.

Everything was fine for the next half an hour, after which an emotionally charged crowd rushed into the ward, taking doctors and staff by surprise.

The crowd went on to assault two female junior doctors and another on-duty doctor. While one of the junior doctors claimed that she was repeatedly slapped, another doctor alleged that that her arm was twisted.

Irked at the incident, nearly 250 junior doctors, including house surgeons, boycotted their duties except emergency services, demanding action against those involved in the attack.

The junior doctors even lodged a complaint with Afzalgunj police station demanding the arrest of the accused under non-bailable sections.

The Telangana Junior Doctors Association (JUDA) called off their strike on Tuesday, tensions still remain high.

According to the doctors, this was the fourth attack in a month alone.

Constant attacks and no security

Taking into account the recent incident, the Telangana Doctors Forum held a meeting at the premises of the Osmania Medical College in Koti on Wednesday.

Stating that no single person or group was responsible for such incidents, the Forum demanded better protection for medical professionals who were doing their job.

"Most people come here only when the patient is in the last stages, or when they have completely run out of money," said Dr Gopal Kishan, Chairman of the Forum, and former Superintendent of OGH, who retired in 1994.

Dr Gopal Kishan speaking at the meeting.

"The hospital can't refuse to take a patient, and the facilities are inadequate, and the patient often ends up dying. This is why, even the mortality rates of government hospitals in the city are very high," he added.

Observing that the trust on doctors was depleting as medical ethics were also falling, he stated that no doctor would want their patients to die.

"We often treat the poorest of the poor, and we don't want them to suffer. However, there are several issues to be addressed in the hospital itself. There is a severe shortage of nursing staff and in the supply of medicines," Dr Gopal Kishan said.

While huge amounts are spent on security of politicians, very little or no money is spent on security in government hospitals, the doctors said.

"Going on strike, is always the last option," the Forum's Vice-Chairman Dr Pratap Reddy proclaimed.

"The system is faulty, and there are many questions that need to be answered. We never see such attacks in private hospitals? Why? It's because the government hospital doesn't have a protocol system," he added.

Dr Reddy argued that an efficient helpline and reception desk was necessary, to keep patients moving forward, with not more than 15-20 minutes being spent per patient, unless they have to be admitted.

"There is also a severe drug shortage, and we have to inventorise the current stock. Another major issue, is sanitation. There is a dire need to keep the hospital premises clean, and a dearth of funds for this," he said.


On Monday, OGH Superintendent GVS Moorthy set up a committee to look into the demands of the protesters and asked for a report within three days.

Dubbing it a 'security failure', the doctors made several demands.

Dr G Srinivas, a former president of Junior Doctors Association (JUDA), said that there was a need for CCTV cameras across the hospital and an 'emergency alarm' button that the medicos could press, to call for security.

"There are nine sensitive areas across the hospital, and we demand that at least two armed Special Protection Forces (SPF) personnel are present at each spot. Otherwise, it gets very hard, to control the crowd," says Dr Nidaullah, Joint Secretary of JUDA.

The doctors say that they have given the state government 24 hours to increase protection at the hospital, while a week's deadline has been given to install CCTV cameras.

If the demands are not met, the doctors plan to resume their strike in one week.

Crumbling IP block

All the doctors also expressed regret at the crumbling state of the OGH’s in-patient (IP) block.

Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao inspecting OGH in 2015.

Almost a century old, the IP block is the hospital’s oldest building, but it is in dire need of repair and restoration, as plaster and paint is falling off both outside and inside the building.

The hospital was conceived after the Musi flood of 1908 by architect Vincent Jerome Esch, at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, under the rule of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan. It was opened to patients in 1921, and has stayed in business since.

Though the Telangana government has been promising to refurbish the building since 2015, all plans remain on paper.

In fact, the situation is so bad that almost an entire floor had to be vacated last month, after large pieces of false ceiling began breaking loose and falling down.

“If the structure collapses one day, then who is to blame? As a former Superintendent of the hospital, it pains me to see the building in such a state. There is a need to construct a new block and shift medical procedures there, so that this building can be conserved as a heritage site,” Dr Gopal said.

“I don’t mean to politicise the event, but as someone who went to jail during the first Telangana agitation in the 1960s, I’m saying that there is no need for a new Secretariat for our government officials. There is a greater need for a new building at the premises of the OGH, which will serve the poorest citizens in the state,” he added.

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