Sultanpur, Oct 25 (IANS/ 101Reporters) Shankar Ram and Manisha Singh, a married couple from Jarai Kalan village, were delighted at the birth of their baby boy on September 5 this year. Since there weren’t any adequate medical facilities in their village or those nearby, the couple had stayed in their grandmother’s place in Maya Bazar, Faizabad, until the delivery. The baby was born at a private hospital there, and after being discharged, the family returned to the village.
However, their happiness was short-lived when the baby suddenly developed a fever within a few hours of their return. The new parents ran from one hospital to another seeking treatment, but their frantic efforts ended in tragedy as their barely two-day-old infant died in the district hospital in Faizabad, about 50 kilometres away from their village. “The roads are so bad that it takes almost two and a half hours to reach there from the village,” said Ram.
A harrowing ordeal
“We first called the doctor at the hospital where our baby was born. He suggested that we consult a child specialist. Where could we find one when we don’t even have a proper healthcare facility in the village?” questioned Ram.
Recalling the ordeal, he said: “I hired a Bolero car and visited the Haliyapur Primary Health Centre (PHC) first. They don’t have any (good) facilities. We then went to the private hospital where my baby was born. But it was late in the night, so they turned us away due to the unavailability of doctors. We then rushed to Faizabad district hospital. There, after an hour and a half, my child was declared dead. The reason for his death is not yet clear, but we have lost our first and only child.”
The Haliyapur PHC is about 3.5 km from the village.
Ram believes that his child could have been saved had there been a functional health facility in the village.
“A healthcare sub-centre is available in the village, but it has been in severe disrepair for years. Doctors do not work here because of the dilapidated building. I could have saved my child if the healthcare centre had been equipped with the necessary facilities. It was just a high temperature which could have been treated by immediate medical attention,” said Ram, grieving the loss of his child.
A sub-health centre or sub-centre provides an interface with the community at the grass-root level, providing all the primary healthcare services for a maximum of 5,000 people. Staffed with at least one auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) or health worker, the sub-centres are meant to have maternal and child healthcare services and trained nurses for delivery and childcare.
More tales of misery
Ram and his wife are not the only couple to have lost their newborn child due to the unavailability of medical facilities in the village. Raja Singh, who looks after all the responsibilities of the village pradhan, said that the sub-centre has been non-functional for more than 15 years now. “The village has lost about 150 newborn children, including babies who died in-utero due to the healthcare centre being defunct,” Singh informed 101Reporters.
Phul Kali (55), from the neighbouring village Pure Basu (which falls under the Jarai Kalan gram panchayat), lost her daughter’s unborn child two years ago because of the absence of a medical centre in the village. Before they could reach any hospital, she went into labour, and the baby’s head slipped out, resulting in a stillbirth.
“The nearest hospital we have is Haliyapur PHC. But to get there, we need a vehicle because there is no public transport facility in the village. We survive on irregular wages doing manual labour. How can we afford any vehicle? Ambulances have no fixed time to arrive. If they are far away, they take a lot of time. We somehow managed a vehicle for my daughter, but when we were on the way to the PHC, we lost the baby,” Phul told 101Reporters. She claimed they had to spend lakhs on treatment after the baby died in her daughter’s womb.
Phul decried the state of affairs, saying, “If the healthcare centre in the village were working, I would be playing with my grandchild now. This medical centre needs to be opened as soon as possible, or else we poor people will continue losing children.”
Another couple from the village, Anand and Pooja Tiwari, also lost their newborn baby girl on June 3 this year. “We were happy to see that our baby was healthy. We were able to pay the bill of Rs 12,000; We opted for a private hospital because we wanted our baby healthy and alive,” said Tiwari, who works as a driver and earns around Rs 6,000 a month.
However, their baby developed respiratory problems. “In just half an hour, we lost our child. We did not have time to see doctors as the hospitals are far away,” said Tiwari. “We would have got immediate medical attention if the village had any healthcare facility. The absence of healthcare centres has been causing us huge problems for years,” he added, saying that he tried to seek the local ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) worker’s help for his child, but to no avail.
“We have been requesting pradhans for years, but they say that there is no budget to repair the sub-centre. Nobody sees or understands our plight,” said Jogi Ram, a resident.
Picture of official apathy
The sub-centre in the village is so derelict that its doors and windows are broken and the walls could fall at any time. “Because of the building condition, the doctors posted here don’t visit the hospital at all,” said Raja Singh. He further said that five villages come under the Jarai Kalan gram panchayat and are under five kilometres from the health centre.
“About 10,000 to 12,000 villagers would benefit from the sub-centre. It should be repaired and functional as soon as possible,” added Raja Singh.
Rekha Maurya, the ANM posted at the sub-centre, confirmed that it cannot function without proper renovation. “The building is so run-down that we can’t risk our lives sitting there. Despite the pathetic condition of the building, the government has not provided any facility here,” said Rekha. She added, “I have been requesting officials for months, but they have only given us promises that it will be restored and open for villagers soon.”
With just one sub-centre to cater to five villages’ medical needs and emergencies, it has become imperative for concerned authorities to prioritise the complete renovation and installation of a fully functional health centre. However, the government continues to pass the buck at the cost of more infant fatalities.
The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Sultanpur said that he has already sent estimates for restoration work of the sub-centre on May 25, 2021, to the government. “We have 12-15 sub-centres across the district that are in bad condition amongst 115 centres. I have sent the estimates to the state government for repair works for all dilapidated centres, but I am yet to hear any response on it,” the CMO told 101Reporters.
(The author is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters)