Buzz over removal of NMCH Superintendent: Was he made scapegoat?

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Nitish Kumar government cannot escape the responsibility of mishandling the COVID19 crisis. (image Coutesy: Zee Bihar)
Nitish Kumar government cannot escape the responsibility of mishandling the COVID19 crisis. (image Coutesy: Zee Bihar)

The removal of Nalanda Medical College & Hospital superintendent (NMCH) Nirmal Kumar Sinha from his post on Tuesday has triggered speculations in local media over the reason of the move. The state health department took the action a day after central health ministry team comprised of Joint Health Secretary Luv Agarwal, Director of CDC S. K. Singh and Associate Professor at the Department of Medicine AIIMS, Dr. Niraj Nishchal visited the hospital.

Buzz goes that Bihar government took the decision after Dr. Sinha divulged the state government’s apathy towards hospital with the central team ever since declaring it the first COVID-19 dedicated hospital. However, government version is that Dr. Sinha was removed due to administrative reasons.

Meanwhile, state health minister Mangal Pandey visited NMCH on Thursday to take stock of the situation after media reports show the deplorable conditions persist. Earlier, many visuals had surfaced showing dead bodies lying unattended in COVID-19 wards, besides patients.

As far as mismanagement in government run hospitals is concerned, the horrific stories emerging from across the state expose the actual state of affairs. A number of observers have aptly described the pathetic condition with the analogy that the state health system is itself on ventilator.

Surprisingly, during the three months long lock down when the number of infected cases in the state remained low, the government did not enhance the health infrastructure or devised emergency plan to deal with the imminent wave of pandemic.

Having witnessed the total collapse of state health machinery during last year’s Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak, the state government was better placed in terms of knowing how ill equipped the healthcare system is to deal with even low scale pandemic. Then, in span of hours, 150 children had died which led to the widespread media criticism.

According to its own submission in Supreme Court in response to a notice over the deaths of children in Muzaffarpur, Bihar government said that its health infrastructure was inadequate to deal with a crisis such as the outbreak of AES. An affidavit submitted regarding this, states that only 43% of the sanctioned strength of doctors, 29% of nurses and 28% of lab technicians were available in government hospitals.

However, Bihar state health machinery barely did anything to improve the medical facilities and number of health workers except erecting a few buildings and setting up 100 bed ICU at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in Muzaffarpur.

Irrespective of the reasons behind removal of Dr. Sinha, the Nitish Kumar government cannot escape the responsibility as despite having opportunities during last few months, it hardly did anything to tone up the health infrastructure. Making an official scapegoat is not going to solve the problem.

(Shams Khan is contributing editor at the TheNewsweb. The views are personal)

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