Uttam Rai, a 39-year-old resident of Sundarrhaicha Municipality-7, visited the Purbanchal University Teaching Hospital complaining of pain in his legs. The doctor said there was a problem with his veins and recommended physiotherapy. But even after visiting the hospital for two days, Rai has been unable to meet a physiotherapist, let alone start his treatment.
“No one was there at the department,” Rai says. “As I couldn’t stand the pain, I went to Itahari to get treatment,” he says, adding that the sorry state of the hospital near his home makes him sad. “Patients who pay the minimal mandated OPD fees at times have to go home without treatment,” he says. “In addition, the OPD service is closed before noon.”
Nisha Parajuli of Sundarharaicha-7 took her child to hospital after her child ran a fever for two days. But doctors declined to take the child’s temperature saying that their thermal gun had run out of batteries, even as the battery just costs Rs 15. Following the episode, Parajuli rushed her daughter to Koshi Hospital, Biratnagar, 35km away,
Like Rai and Parajuli, hundreds of people visiting the Purbanchal University Teaching Hospital face numerous problems and are denied treatment as the facility in Goth Gaun reels under the effects of local politics.
“They tell you to take the patient somewhere else, right when you reach the hospital’s doorsteps,” says Madhan GC, a resident of Sundarharaicha. “People here have a hospital in their neighborhood, yet they have to travel long distances for treatment,” he adds. According to him, the doctors only show up at around 11 am and leave half an hour later.
The hospital employs nine specialist doctors, four medical officers, and 19 nurses. Says Arjun Parajuli, a resident of the city, “The hospital is ill-managed. Even the labs are dysfunctional.” He alleges that the lab has been rendered dysfunctional in cahoots with private labs that offer services at higher prices.
When ApEx visited the hospital last week, the OPD was open, but not a single doctor was in sight. There were a few nurses in the emergency ward. As the hospital doesn’t admit patients, all beds were vacant. The lab technician also didn’t show up for three hours.
Around 300 people from Sundarharaicha, Belbari and even Kerabari visit the hospital every day seeking treatment. But it is impossible to meet a doctor at the hospital as they are available only for a few hours, staffers say.
The hospital, which was established in 2009, was supposed to host a medical college. “But the management hasn’t done enough to meet the standards needed for a medical college,” a staffer says.According to the Medical Education Act, a hospital needs to have 100 beds to become eligible to run a teaching hospital.
The university has, however, been mentioning the hospital in its policy and programs and allocating millions of rupees for it. The university also hasn’t taken action against employees who work for private medical facilities to make extra money.
The hospital administration chief Dhirendra Mallik says the hospital can’t admit patients due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “The OPD runs till noon and the emergency services are available only for 13 hours,” says Mallik
Director Dr Bipesh Acharya admits that the hospital is in dire need of reform. “We are holding consultations with stakeholders. It will take time to improve our management,” says Acharya, who was appointed to the post last month.