When Chancla Devi went into labor in the middle of the night, she was rushed to Provincial Hospital in Janakpurdham, where she underwent a C-section surgery and gave birth to a baby boy.
As the baby was sickly, the doctor suggested that he be kept in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.
“The NICU at the hospital was full at the time,” says Rabindra Sah, the baby’s father. “So Dr Abhaya Mandal told us to take the baby to Naina Hospital at Ramananda Chowk.”
Naina Hospital is a privately run facility established by Dr Brijmohan Rajak, who also works at the Provincial Hospital, some 16 months ago. It is registered with the government.
“It turned out, the hospital did not have an NICU, and the doctors lied to us,” says Sah, who hails from Sarlahi district. “Days after admitting my baby, they told us he did not survive.”
Sah claims his newborn died because Dr Mandal referred his baby to a hospital that is being illegally operated. He says the doctors refused to refer the baby to a proper hospital despite his repeated requests.
“They kept telling me that the baby was doing fine when he was not,” says Sah. “They killed my baby and then handed me a bill for Rs 32,000.”
Dr Mandal refutes Sah’s allegation. “The baby had a heart condition,” he says. “We did our best to save him.”
He did admit that he had referred the baby to Naina Hospital. He, however, says that he had no idea the hospital was not registered with the government.
The hospital owner, Dr Rajak, says they are in the process of registering the hospital.
There are dozens of unregistered hospitals and pharmacies in Janakpurdham, where people visit on a daily basis.
Bijay Jha, director at the Health Directorate under the Social Development Ministry of Madhes Province, says though they don’t have the actual figure on the number of unregistered hospitals and pharmacies in the city, it could be close to 90 percent.
“These are privately run facilities. We are still in the process of collecting their details,” says Jha.
City Hospital, Nawajiwan Hospital, Tarai Rajdhani Hospital, Dhanusha Hospital and City Hospital Care Nursing Home are some of the hospitals based in Janakpurdham. Likewise, there are dozens of pharmacies and diagnostic centers close. The government has not recognized the majority of these facilities
As per the law, to open a health facility with 25 beds or less, the operator must obtain a permit from the local government. The provincial government issues permits for hospitals with more than 25 beds.
Saroj Mishra, a social activist in Janakpurdham, says most hospitals, pharmacies and pathology labs running in the city are illegal, and people in the medical profession themselves are behind them.
“The government is not doing anything about this because those who own these facilities are politically connected,” he says. “Hospitals and pharmacies are being treated as profit-making businesses, which is unfortunate.”