KASARGOD: The Department of Health changed its mind to convert the District Hospital to a COVID Hospital and has instead directed the district medical officer Dr AV Ramdas to turn the General Hospital in Kasaragod to treat coronavirus patients, said officials.
The decision was announced by the principal secretary of Health and Family Welfare Dr Rajan N Khobragade in a Zoom meeting, they said.
To be sure, last week Collector D Sajith Babu had put out a statement saying the District Hospital would be turned exclusively to a COVID Hospital.
Dr Ramdas had made arrangements to shift key departments to other locations, which TNIE reported on Saturday.
"We will have to look for hospitals in Kasaragod to accommodate the departments of General Hospital," said hospital superintendent Dr Rajaram.
Kasaragod MLA NA Nellikkunnu shot off a letter to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to reconsider the decision. "In April, when General Hospital was converted to a COVID Hospital, the antenatal wing was shifted to a cooperative hospital in Cherkala and the patients had to undergo a lot of hardship," he said.
On average, 300 women give birth every month in General Hospital, which is around 10 births per day, he said. EK Nayanar Memorial Cooperative Hospital does not have room to accommodate such large numbers of pregnant women. "Pregnant women had to share beds and caregivers were forced to sleep on the floor in the hospital. Now after six months of COVID, why is the government thrusting the same plight on the people of Kasaragod," he asked.
Apart from the antenatal wing, the hospital will also have to find space for the departments of Surgery, Paediatrics, Psychiatry, and chemotherapy.
In his petition of the chief minister, Nellikkunnu said the people of Manjeshwar and Kasaragod taluks depended on the General Hospital, and the government should not forget the hardship caused to the people by the decision last time.
He wondered why the General Hospital was being converted to a COVID Hospital when the district had a COVID Hospital in Ukkinadka and another 550-bed hospital built by the Tata Group.
COVID Hospital, a picture of apathy
As reported by TNIE on Saturday, the 551-bed hospital built by the Tata Group will be run only as a COVID First-Line Treatment Centre because the government does not have funds to start a full-fledged hospital there, said top officials.
The COVID Hospital, set up in the Academic Block of the Medical College Hospital at Ukkinadka, is struggling without adequate and qualified staff. After six months, the ICU is still not ready and has only one physician. Health officials said the hospital does not have clinicial doctors such as pulmonologists, anaesthetists, and general physicians.
The 200-bed hospital admits only around 50 patients and if they developed serious symptoms, they are referred to Kannur Medical College Hospital.
"Against this backdrop, the government allowed 22 senior residents posted at Kasaragod medical college to work from Kozhikode medical college, where there is surplus staff," said a doctor, who helped set up the hospital. "This is gross neglect and orphaning of the district," he said.
In an order dated September 2, joint director (Medicine) of Medical Education, Dr Thomas Mathew allowed 22 senior residents, who are specialists doctors, to join Kozhikode Medical College on 'working arrangement'. TNIE has reviewed the order.
The 22 senior residents included anaesthetist, general physicians, general surgeons, paediatricians, and chest specialists, whose expertise was needed in Kasaragod.
But this is not the first time the government was encouraging such 'working arrangement' that directly benefited the doctors and hurt the district.
In November 2018, psychiatrist consultant Manju Peethambaran of General hospital left for Alappuzha, her home district, on working arrangement.
After furore, her arrangement order was cancelled in December 2019. But she is yet to rejoin.
In March, when the COVID cases were on the rise, general physician Mohammed Rijosh of Panathady Taluk Hospital left for his home district of Kozhikode. Paediatrician Meena Kumari of the same hospital left for Kollam.
Both the working arrangements were cancelled by a departmental order in July. Dr Meena Kumari reported back but Dr Rijosh was yet to join.
Though two doctors have not yet reported back, the department has not yet taken any action and they are drawing salaries, said the official cited above. "It is a double whammy for Kasaragod because on the one hand the government plays favourites with employees and on the other hand neglects the district," he said.