Sunday, 5 January 2014

Indian govt. hospitals understaffed and undersupplied, says doctor

A doctor who spent the last year working at government hospitals in India says that such hospitals are often understaffed and suffer from a shortage of supplies and medical equipment.

Dr. Apollina Sharma, who worked at the Lady Goschen, Wenlock and KMC Attavar hospitals in Mangalore says that this greatly affects patient care.

In fact. shortage of staff and equipment at hospitals in India plagues more than 40% of primary health centres in the country.

"In a government hospital, we don't have enough pain medication," says Dr. Apollina Sharma. "Sometimes, doctors don't even have gloves. We don't have enough cotton. We don't have enough machines to look at more that two critical patients at a time."

Dr. Apollina Sharma (centre) and her colleagues. Reproduced with permission
"Sometimes, the same machine is going to the wards, sometimes it is coming back to the labour theatre," says Dr. Sharma, who spent the last completing a medical internship in the Indian city of Mangalore.

"Supposing two patients have to be monitored, you have to pick and choose which ones have to be monitored and you have to be on constant rota duty."

This she says was painfully noticeable when she was in the operating theatre assisting in the birth of babies.

"Technically, sanitary and health-wise, you're supposed to change your gown, your gloves, everything, between each delivery because that's the hygienic thing to do," she explains.

"Because we were so understaffed, what used to happen was that I would be delivering a baby and the other baby would start coming at the other end," she says. 

"I would deliver this baby, run, rush, deliver that one, deliver the third one, deliver the fourth one.

"I was not changing my gloves," she says. "Sometimes, I've even delivered a baby with my bare hands, because we just didn't have gloves to wear."

Because the hospital was so understaffed, says Apollina, doctors were unable to ensure that patients observed proper medical protocol with patients.

"Before delivery, we tell the patient to go and urinate at least one and a half to two hours before delivery. There's a process," she explains. "There was a woman who didn't listen to us and because we were so understaffed, we were taking care of all the other patients."

"She went to the bathroom right when her delivery happened and we had to rush to the bathroom to deliver the baby," she recalls. "It's such an unsanitary place."

A phone call to confirm with Lady Goschen Hospital regarding what Apollina had said confirmed the same, but both Wenlock and KMC Attavar hospitals were unavailable for comment.

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