What lies ahead for crumbling health infrastructure of Bihar. (Photo: Fusion Medical Animation/ UNSPLASH)

How Healthy is Bihar’s Healthcare System in Battling COVID-19.

Shams Khan

TNW, April 1. When world’s leading health care facilities are struggling to cope up with the Corona Virus, one wonders what lies ahead for ill-equipped Indian state like Bihar. This bears importance because last year at the time of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak in Muzzaffarpur, the state’s health care system had miserably failed to save lives of ailing children (officially 150 children died). The national media had heavily criticised the state government for mishandling and lack of facilities, then. Has the situation improved since then? Does the medical system have wherewithal to combat the deadly COVID-19.   

In the light of Central government’s recent submission before the Supreme Court that 3 out of 10 migrants are prone to catch the Infection, Bihar faces very alarming situation since lakhs of migrant workers have lately returned to the state.

According to a recent Reuters report, “shortages of protective gear in India are forcing some doctors to use raincoat and motorbike helmets while fighting the corona virus.” the situation of health care system in Bihar is much worse.

Few days back, 80 junior doctors of the state’s first COVID-19 special hospitals, Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, wrote a letter to their superintendent asking permission for 15 days home quarantine since many of them had symptom of viral disease, which they blamed on lack of protective kits and mask.

“We’re on duty without all necessary kits and masks, which makes many of us vulnerable to infection…many of us have developed symptoms of COVID-19…but nobody is here to listen us,”  Ravi Ranjan Kumar Raman, president of the NMCH Junior Doctors Association told to The Hindu .

The scenario is more or less same in other hospitals. The Quint video, based on the anonymous interviews of several doctors stationed in top hospitals of the state, has further exposed the grim state of affairs. One doctor revealed that in the name of Personal Protective Equipment HIV kits are being supplied which is not safe to deal with the highly contagious COVID-19.

Doctors of at least two top colleges, Darbhanga Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) in Darbhanga district and Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College (KLNMC) in Bhagalpur district have threatened to boycott work on account of lack of PPE’s. “Polythene bags were used by them to cover their hands in the absence of gloves”, Sunil Kumar Singh, a doctor told to DowntoEarth.

Many believe that there is considerable under reporting of corona positive cases in Bihar. Sources told to The Newsweb that screening of migrant laborers is just ‘khanapuri’ (mere formality) as proper health screening of thousands of migrant workers is virtually not possible.

However, Bihar’s Health Minister Mangal Pandey has said that enough personal protection equipment and mask have been arranged. Yet, how much difference this arrangement will make on ground remains to be seen, as a junior police officer posted in a district bordering Utter Pardesh told the The Newsweb that they got mask from the government, but I deemed it fit to wear my old helmet rather than poorly made unhygienic mask.

–The writer is associated with Bihar Times.

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