Op-Ed: Let Others Follow Agrawal’s Example

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: It was heart-warming to read about Malkangiri collector, Manish Agrawal’s wife having a safe delivery at the district headquarters hospital. Agrawal’s decision to get his pregnant wife admitted to a hospital that had received a lot of negative publicity only three years ago following a string of Japanese Encephalitis deaths, the victims being children, was not only courageous but also foresighted from the point of view of an administrator. It will help restore people’s confidence in the hospital’s infrastructure and the ability of its doctors.

This is extremely important considering that Malkangiri is a backward district, a part of the infamous KBK belt, where less than satisfactory health facilities and rampant absenteeism among doctors has led people to flock to quacks and black magicians for cures to their diverse ailments. The Japanese Encephalitis deaths had further eroded people’s confidence in the government-run hospitals and it was important to restore their faith in the system.

Like a good and courageous administrator Agrawal has led by example on this front. Given his position he could have got his wife admitted to any top-notch private sector hospital but he decided to avail the services of a hospital which catered to the poorest of the poor in his own district. Such officers deserve our praise.

But having said that there is no denying the shaky health infrastructure in most of the remote districts of the state. The hospitals and health centres in most of these districts neither boast of state of the art facilities nor doctors who inspire confidence. The commitment of doctors has been in question because of their tendency either to work half-heartedly or to play truant when they are required most.

This is not to suggest that all members of the medical fraternity have been behaving in this manner. In fact, some of them have set shining examples of dedication to duty attending to calls from patients in difficult terrains. We have instances where doctors have worked much beyond their duty hours to ensure that tribal women coming to hospitals from inaccessible areas have safe deliveries.

But these are exceptions, not the rule. The overall health scenario in far flung areas of the state continues to be grim with cases of women giving birth by roadside being reported frequently. While ambulances very often fail to reach the needy in time there have also been allegations of doctors in hospitals demanding bribes from patients.

Over the years the state government has taken several steps to improve the scenario. In what may be described as a carrot and stick policy it has offered special incentives to doctors in order to draw them to government hospitals while issuing stern warnings to the medicos playing truant. Once sincerely hopes the government succeeds in setting things in order on this front in the larger interest of the people who cannot afford treatment in the ultra-expensive private hospitals. At the same time one would expect the higher-ups in the administration to follow the example of Agrawal to instil confidence among people about the capabilities of government-run hospitals.

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